WASHINGTON ― Senate Democrats said Wednesday that they’re willing to work with President-elect Donald Trump on issues where they see common ground ― and they already have a few ideas in mind.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), whom Democrats officially selected as their leader in the Senate Wednesday morning, said he doesn’t want to take the approach Republicans took when Barack Obama became president and just block everything he tries to do. He wants to make deals.
“When we can agree on issues, then we’re going to work with him,” Schumer told reporters. “But I’ve also said to the president-elect, on issues where we disagree, we expect a strong and tough fight. And that’s how the relationship is going to be.”
Other members of Schumer’s leadership team were also eager to strike a balance between working with Trump and fighting him. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), newly chosen as the fourth-ranking member of leadership, specifically mentioned Trump’s toxic chief strategist Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, as a problem.
“If he’s going to move forward with Steve Bannon approaches, and dividing people, and tax cuts only to the rich, and all of the other things that affect special interests, we’re going to fight him tooth and nail,” Stabenow said. (Bannon is beloved by white nationalists.)
Stabenow highlighted international trade as a possible area of cooperation. Trump has pledged to renegotiate or even withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he blames for companies closing U.S. factories in favor of Mexican ones. Many economists think messing with trade agreements could tank the economy.
“At this point, he said he wanted to go back and renegotiate NAFTA, well, let’s see what he does,” Stabenow said. She also said she shared Trump’s opposition to the unfinished trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Other Democrats have pointed to a minimum wage increase, job creation and eliminating the so-called “carried interest” tax loophole as areas where they could work with Trump. But more than anything else, Democrats see investments in the nation’s crumbling infrastructure as an area with real potential for agreement.
“It stands out because it was the first thing he mentioned on Election Night, so it must have been on his mind. It stands out because Sen. Schumer has always been interested in tying it with international tax reform,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) told The Huffington Post. “What’s cool about moving forward on infrastructure is we could actually do something big and some of the major infrastructure improvements that need to be made.”
Schumer, who said he’s already spoken to Trump a couple of times, declined to say whether they discussed infrastructure.
Republicans, too, seemed eager to get moving on infrastructure investments.
“I think our infrastructure is in dire need of help all over this country. I think President-elect Trump is right on there,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who floated the same idea for funding it as Klobuchar. “There’s a lot of money overseas that needs to be repatriated. That might be something people ought to look at.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said it’s too early to talk about what should be atop Trump’s agenda. But she said she’s noticed what he’s hinted at and likes it. “I’m pleased he’s talked about infrastructure and tax reform,” she said.
This article has been updated to include comments from Sens. Shelby and Collins.