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Westlake Legal Group > McConnell, Mitch

As Inquiry Widens, McConnell Is Said to See Impeachment Trial as Inevitable

Westlake Legal Group 18dc-senate-facebookJumbo As Inquiry Widens, McConnell Is Said to See Impeachment Trial as Inevitable United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Senate Murkowski, Lisa McConnell, Mitch impeachment Elections, Senate Constitution (US) Collins, Susan M

WASHINGTON — It was only a few weeks ago that the top Senate Republican was hinting that his chamber would make short work of impeachment.

But this week, Senator Mitch McConnell sat his colleagues down over lunch in the Capitol and warned them to prepare for an extended impeachment trial of President Trump.

According to people who were there, he came equipped with a PowerPoint presentation, complete with quotes from the Constitution, as he schooled fellow senators on the intricacies of a process he portrayed as all but inevitable.

Few Republicans are inclined to convict Mr. Trump on charges that he abused his power to enlist Ukraine in an effort to smear his political rivals. Instead, Mr. McConnell sees the proceedings as necessary to protect a half a dozen moderates in states like Maine, Colorado and North Carolina who face re-election next year and must show voters they are giving the House impeachment charges a serious review.

It’s people like Senator Susan Collins of Maine who will be under immense political pressure as they decide the president’s fate.

“To overturn an election, to decide whether or not to convict a president is about as serious as it gets,” Ms. Collins said.

Mr. McConnell is walking a careful line of his own in managing the fast-moving impeachment process. On Friday, the senator wrote a scathing op-ed criticizing the president’s decision to pull back troops from northern Syria, calling it a “grave strategic mistake.” But Mr. McConnell views it as his role to protect a president of his own party from impeachment and in a recent fund-raising video, he vowed to stop it.

The mood among Republicans on Capitol Hill has shifted from indignant to anxious as a parade of administration witnesses has submitted to closed-door questioning by impeachment investigators and corroborated central elements of the whistle-blower complaint that sparked the inquiry.

They grew more worried still on Thursday, after Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, undercut the president’s defense by saying that Mr. Trump had indeed withheld security aid from Ukraine in order to spur an investigation of his political rivals. Mr. Mulvaney later backtracked, but the damage was done.

“I couldn’t believe it — I was very surprised that he said that,” said Representative Francis Rooney, Republican of Florida, who mocked Mr. Mulvaney’s attempts to take back comments that had been broadcast live from the White House briefing room.

“It’s not an Etch A Sketch,” Mr. Rooney said, miming the tipping movement that erases the toy drawing board. “There were a lot of Republicans looking at that headline yesterday when it came up, I certainly was.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski — an Alaskan Republican who is seen as potentially open to removing Mr. Trump from office — told reporters that a president should never engage in the kinds of actions that Mr. Mulvaney appeared to acknowledge.

“You don’t hold up foreign aid that we had previously appropriated for a political initiative,” she said. “Period.”

Still, Republicans said they did not detect a significant shift that would pose a serious threat to the president in the Senate. It would require 20 Republicans to side with Democrats in convicting Mr. Trump, and few observers believe that will happen.

Mr. McConnell, his allies said, regards the impeachment fight in much the same way as he did the struggle last year to confirm Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, in which he was primarily concerned with protecting his Senate majority by insulating vulnerable incumbents. Then, as now, they said, Mr. McConnell is focused on keeping Republicans as united as possible, while allowing those with reservations about Mr. Trump’s conduct and their own political considerations to justify their decision to their constituents.

“I think he will play it straight,” said Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas and a close McConnell ally, who noted his party’s narrow voting margin. “I don’t think he has any alternative. When you are operating with 53 you have thin margins and you can’t jam anybody or you end up with undesirable consequences.”

Mr. McConnell has told colleagues he expects the House to impeach Mr. Trump quickly, possibly by Thanksgiving, an educated hunch based on the pace of the inquiry so far and Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to keep the inquiry narrowly focused on Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. He plans to move swiftly too, he told colleagues, using the approach of Christmas to force the Senate to complete its work before the beginning of 2020.

Yet an impeachment trial is a spectacle that is by its nature unpredictable, and most of the senators who will act as jurors were not around for the last one, of Bill Clinton in 1999. Mr. McConnell reminded senators that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. would preside over the trial, and would have wide latitude in handling motions that might be made, including any motion to dismiss the charges that Republicans might try to put forward to short circuit the process.

Mr. McConnell’s declaration that the Senate would move forward was in part designed to show he had no choice, an effort to deflect criticism from conservatives outraged that the Senate would even consider impeachment.

On Wednesday, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, pushed for Senate Republicans to write a letter to Ms. Pelosi declaring that they would not remove the president. But some senators raised objections, worrying that some of their colleagues would not want to sign on, a result that would expose disunity among Republicans. Mr. Graham’s colleagues said they believe they staved off the letter, which they viewed as a mistake.

Mr. McConnell has made it clear that he plans to sit down with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, to see if they can find a mutually acceptable way to move forward as Democrats and Republicans did in 1999 when they unanimously agreed on the framework for the impeachment trial. The Senate is much more polarized now, though Mr. Schumer this week held out hope.

“We have to do this trial in a fair and bipartisan way and I hope that Leader McConnell would obey those strictures,” Mr. Schumer said. In the battle for Senate control, Democrats have their own political risks to consider since impeachment could prompt a backlash against some of their candidates if enough voters conclude that the president was pursued unfairly.

Just 15 senators remain in office from the time Mr. Clinton was put on trial. Mr. McConnell warned them of the weight of the trial, where they can be required to be on the floor all afternoon six days a week without speaking — a major challenge for senators who relish their chances to be heard.

“It will mean day after day sitting in chamber, listening to the two sides, writing questions for them to answer that go through the chief justice,” said Ms. Collins, one of the Republicans who voted to acquit Mr. Clinton 20 years ago. “Members who have not been through this before will find it is a great deal of work.”

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For Once, Republicans Break With Trump, but Not on Impeachment

Westlake Legal Group 08dc-hulse-facebookJumbo For Once, Republicans Break With Trump, but Not on Impeachment United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Romney, Mitt Republican Party Portman, Rob McConnell, Mitch Haley, Nikki R Graham, Lindsey

WASHINGTON — Senator Lindsey Graham, an unsparing critic of President Trump before he entered the White House, rarely if ever questions him anymore, even after the president urged foreign governments to investigate his political rivals.

But on Monday, Mr. Graham found something to criticize, and he could not have been tougher on Mr. Trump.

“I expect the American president to do what is in our national security interest, and it is never in our national security interest to abandon an ally,” Mr. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, railed on Fox News over Mr. Trump’s decision to pull back in Syria.

He and other Republicans joined Democrats in saying that the move could potentially clear the way for a Turkish offensive against Kurdish fighters who have helped the United States root out the Islamic State. Mr. Graham also delivered what could be considered the ultimate insult to Mr. Trump: comparing his Syria policy to that of his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Consistently assailed for refusing to stand up to the president, Senate Republicans this week briefly found their voices, bombarding Mr. Trump with public complaints over his Syria decision. The fleeting moment of dissonance revealed what has emerged as an informal rule of thumb among Republican senators who consider themselves foreign policy experts, with wide latitude to weigh in and potentially influence a president who has far less experience on the subject than they do. They are willing to break with Mr. Trump on matters of international affairs — but only when they believe there are no domestic political consequences for doing so.

Don’t expect the same reaction when it comes to Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, the subject of an accelerating impeachment fight. Republicans see that issue as an existential threat to the president and their party’s rule in Washington, and are reluctant to legitimize what they regard as an overreach by Democrats by joining in their criticism.

In fact, just a day after his harsh assessment of the president’s decision on Syria, Mr. Graham rushed to Mr. Trump’s defense in the Ukraine matter by announcing a hearing that could serve as a counterweight to the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry. He said on Tuesday that the Judiciary Committee, which he is the chairman of, would hear from Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, about “corruption and other improprieties involving Ukraine,” which Mr. Trump has argued justified his pressure campaign to get the Ukrainian president to investigate Democrats.

When it comes to foreign policy, many senators have spent considerable time developing their expertise, making repeated trips to the Middle East and other hot spots and becoming deeply invested in their positions. They feel confident expressing their opinion, even when it is quite contrary to Mr. Trump’s.

“Many of us have been dealing with this for a decade or two decades, and I think there are a lot of visits to the area and a lot of discussions that stand behind our views on these issues,” said Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, who had previously counseled the White House on the necessity of maintaining forces in Syria. “This is an area where it has been a consistent concern that leaving those places would create bigger problems than staying.”

The opinions of Mr. Blunt and his colleagues also align with those of much of the Republican foreign policy establishment, current and former top members of the military, and many conservative media commentators, bolstering their willingness to speak out. There truly is strength in numbers. Just a few Republicans — notably Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, both avowed members of the party’s noninterventionist wing — hailed the president’s decision.

“Foreign policy has always been Trump’s Achilles’ heal with Senate Republicans,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and former staff adviser to Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, another Republican who faulted the president’s Syria decision — but not his comments about China and Ukraine. Mr. Conant said Republicans were also driven by their view that Mr. Trump’s foreign policy missteps were more damaging, requiring a more forceful response than his day-to-day incendiary statements.

“Everyone forgets Trump’s tweets after a couple of days,” Mr. Conant said. “But history will never forget if the U.S. allows our Kurdish allies to be massacred.”

At the same time, foreign policy — unlike, say, impeachment — is lower on the president’s priority list. Differences of opinion are less likely to spur him to lash out as he has in recent days, for example, at Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, after Mr. Romney said that the president’s requests of Ukraine and China to investigate Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. were “wrong and appalling.” Mr. Trump responded with name-calling, disparagement and a gleeful reminder of Mr. Obama’s defeat of Mr. Romney in 2012.

Foreign policy appears to be one of the few areas where Mr. Trump is willing to brook some difference of opinion. Pressed on Monday about the tough criticism of his Syria policy from the likes of Mr. Graham; Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, and Nikki R. Haley, Mr. Trump’s former United Nations ambassador, the president was uncharacteristically restrained.

“I have great respect for all of the people that you named,” Mr. Trump said. “And they have their opinion, and a lot of people do. And I could also name many more than you just named of people that totally are supportive. You see the names coming out; people are extremely thrilled because they say it’s time to bring our people back home.”

If Mr. Trump is less likely to be angered by criticism of his foreign policy, many Republicans believe their constituents will be as well. The issue usually does not stir the kind of base revolt and primary challenges back home that have become major concerns for Republicans who dare to cross Mr. Trump on other matters. While many of the president’s core supporters are no doubt eager to see him follow through on his campaign vow to end America’s overseas entanglements, plenty of other Republicans are worried about a premature withdrawal from a trouble spot and a potential resurgence of the Islamic State.

Taking on the president over his dealings with Ukraine, however, is another matter entirely. Even those such as Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, who have joined Mr. Romney in taking issue with Mr. Trump’s interactions with Ukrainian officials say that they don’t believe any offense claimed by Democrats rises to the level of impeachment.

The re-election campaign of Mr. McConnell, who felt compelled on Monday to encourage the president to exercise presidential leadership and reconsider his Syria plan, is currently behind online advertisements in which Mr. McConnell vows to use his position as majority leader to thwart impeachment even before any articles calling for the president’s ouster reach the Senate.

The break with Mr. Trump over Syria has another ancillary benefit for Republicans who are often accused of falling in line behind Mr. Trump like automatons even when he is at his most outrageous: It allows them to point to a significant policy development on which they have quickly and clearly spoken out against him. It cannot be said that they never differ with Mr. Trump, but those differences remain few and far between even as Democrats ramp up their effort to oust the president.

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Impeachment Rules Say Senate Must Act, but Its Act Might Be a Swift Dismissal

WASHINGTON — Senator Mitch McConnell’s comment this week that the Senate would be forced to “take up” articles of impeachment from the House had the capital in a swirl, bracing for a full-blown Senate trial of President Trump. But as things now stand, any trial would likely be swift, ending in dismissal of the accusations.

While the focus was on the statement by Mr. McConnell, the majority leader, that the Senate would have “no choice” but to begin an impeachment proceeding, it was his next line that might have been more telling: “How long you are on it is a whole different matter.”

The fusty rules of the Senate make clear that Republicans could not unilaterally stonewall articles of impeachment of Mr. Trump as they did the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick B. Garland. But Mr. McConnell’s declaration suggests the Republican-controlled Senate could move expeditiously to toss them out if Republicans conclude the House impeachment is meritless, or a strictly partisan affair.

“I don’t think they could just duck it,” said Donald A. Ritchie, historian emeritus of the Senate. “It is a constitutional responsibility. When you look at the weight of history, I think they would feel they have to do something. They would have to decide how abbreviated they wanted to make it.”

Judging by the initial Senate Republican response to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to open an impeachment inquiry after a whistle-blower’s complaint detailed Mr. Trump’s pressuring of the leader of Ukraine to investigate a political rival, Republicans would want it to be quite short. Nearly all Senate Republicans have scoffed at the idea of an impeachment vote in the House, let alone a conviction in the Senate that would force Mr. Trump’s removal from office. That could conceivably change, of course, if new damaging information emerged.

But as both parties begin to quietly explore their strategic response to potential House action, they are zeroing in on the 1999 Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton for guidance, and that proceeding provides one obvious precedent Republicans could embrace.

As the trial threatened to gain steam after the Senate had heard from Republican House managers of the impeachment and Mr. Clinton’s defenders, Senator Robert C. Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat and the highly regarded conscience of the Senate who had said the Bible and Constitution would be his guide, moved to dismiss the entire case. Democrats were in the minority at the time, and Mr. Byrd’s surprise proposal was defeated along party lines, forcing the trial to move forward for a total of about five weeks before Mr. Clinton prevailed.

But in the case of Mr. Trump, his party controls the Senate, and it is not a stretch to envision Republicans providing the votes to throw out the articles, short-circuiting the process and sparing Mr. Trump an extended examination of his conduct.

Senate Republicans essentially laid out that scenario in background guidance circulated over the weekend, noting that a motion to dismiss the articles would be allowed under impeachment rules, and that such a vote took place during the Clinton trial after opening arguments and limited questioning by senators.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 01dc-hulse-02-articleLarge Impeachment Rules Say Senate Must Act, but Its Act Might Be a Swift Dismissal United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Senate Republican Party McConnell, Mitch impeachment Elections, Senate Democratic Party Constitution (US) Clinton, Bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to begin a formal impeachment process has forced senators from both parties to begin to quietly explore their strategic response to potential House action.CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

The tactic looms as a delicate proposition for Mr. McConnell and his Republican colleagues. First, they must mollify a mercurial president and Republican voters who will no doubt be incensed at the very idea of a Senate trial giving credence to the accusations that Mr. Trump improperly sought foreign help against a political rival. At the same time, they would need to demonstrate to the public that the Senate was taking its constitutional responsibilities seriously and not dismissing the House action out of hand.

In either regard, it would represent another tough vote for vulnerable Senate Republicans up for re-election in 2020, who would again have to choose between potentially alienating independents by siding with the president or angering the pro-Trump faction that dominates their party. It could also represent a risky vote for Democrats seeking re-election in swing states such as Michigan.

Democrats say they would keep the pressure on Republicans to make sure that the process for considering articles of impeachment against the president is equitable to both sides.

“If the impeachment process reaches the upper chamber, each and every Senate Republican will have the awesome responsibility of putting country over party and ensuring Leader McConnell allows a fair trial,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mr. McConnell had other reasons to get out in front of questions about how he would handle impeachment. He needed to fend off what are certain to be demands from the president’s supporters to shut down the process or refuse to entertain the articles of impeachment even if it takes turning off the Senate lights and locking the doors. And to hold off those who demand another “nuclear option” to overturn the existing impeachment rules, Mr. McConnell also noted that it would require 67 votes to do so, not the simple majority vote both parties have used in recent years to reset Senate procedures.

That may have been a pre-emptive answer to Mr. Trump himself, who in times of frustration in the past, has sometimes criticized Mr. McConnell for being unwilling to use the “nuclear option” to circumvent rules that require 60 votes to advance most legislation.

Senate Republican officials say any discussion about how the Senate would proceed beyond Mr. McConnell’s statement is pure speculation, with the response dependent on how the House conducts itself and what is ultimately included in any impeachment claim.

In 1999, the two parties wrangled over how to conduct the first presidential impeachment trial in more than a century, but an all-senators meeting in the Old Senate Chamber in the Capitol resulted in a remarkable conclusion: unanimous agreement on the ground rules. That level of consensus seems hard to imagine in the bitterly polarized Senate of today, just 20 years later.

The two parties’ Senate leaders at the time, Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, and Tom Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota, were determined to work together and avoid a spectacle. They were both certain of the ultimate outcome, but wanted the Senate to do its duty and look reasonable doing so.

“The senators took it remarkably seriously,” said Mr. Ritchie, the Senate historian. “The bottom line was the Senate didn’t want to look as foolish as the House had. All of the senators, regardless of party, really felt they needed to act with some dignity.”

How the Senate might act if the House impeaches in this case remains to be seen, but everyone now seems to agree that act it must — in one way or another.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

For Trump, a Time of Indecision

WASHINGTON — Speaking to a Fox News reporter near the Mexican border on Wednesday, President Trump seemed taken aback when asked if the White House were preparing to roll out gun control proposals the next day, a timeline administration officials had suggested was likely.

“No, we’re not moving on anything,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re going very slowly in one way because we want to make sure it’s right.”

The result is that almost two months after the back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso and in Dayton, Ohio, when Mr. Trump said he wanted to pass “very meaningful background checks,” warnings from gun rights advocates and Republican lawmakers about the political blowback that would result from doing that have led to indecision about what to do and what the time frame is for sharing it.

But idling in neutral is not something the president is doing only on guns. In discussions with his staff, Mr. Trump has made clear he wants to accomplish something big, but seems stymied as to what it might be, according to interviews with a half-dozen aides and advisers. In the meantime, he has remained on the sidelines as divisive issues are debated and is treading water even on possible staff changes he wants to make, for fear of how things “play.”

On the international stage, Mr. Trump has seemed most conflicted about how to respond to Iran’s attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, threatening to order “the ultimate option” one moment, and then warning that getting involved in Middle East wars was a mistake the next.

And the lack of direction is apparent even in the message he delivers at his campaign rallies. With little in the way of policy proposals or a larger vision, he has been telling crowds from New Hampshire to South Carolina, “You have no choice but to vote for me,” and has been promoting his new slogan, “Keep America Great.”

On guns, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has made it clear he will not take any action until the White House does. “If the president is in favor of a number of things that he has discussed openly and publicly, and I know that if we pass it, it will become law, I’ll put it on the floor,” he said this month.

For Mr. Trump, who has been under pressure to act but appears to be aware that any decision he makes comes loaded with its own political risk, part of the holdup is division within his own administration.

When William P. Barr, the attorney general, and Eric Ueland, the White House legislative director, met with Republican lawmakers on Wednesday, distributing a plan to expand background checks, he did so with the blessing of the White House, according to people briefed on what took place. But White House communications officials immediately distanced the president from what they described as a “test run” on a proposal they expected would meet resistance and ultimately convinced Mr. Barr, who some Trump aides view as overly aggressive that the plan was a nonstarter.

“The president has not signed off on anything yet,” said Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman. Of the plan that was being distributed by a White House staff member and a senior administration official, he said, “This is not a White House document, and any suggestion to the contrary is completely false.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_159938985_df46e76d-4aaf-42cb-8f68-669a0688b884-articleLarge For Trump, a Time of Indecision United States Politics and Government Trump, Melania Trump, Donald J Mulvaney, Mick McConnell, Mitch gun control E-Cigarettes Barr, William P

Mr. Trump said he would pass “very meaningful background checks” after the mass shooting last month in El Paso.CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

Mr. Trump also appears to be tempering his aggressive vows to impose a ban on all flavored vaping products. In an announcement last week in the Oval Office, with the first lady, Melania Trump, by his side, Mr. Trump declared that “we can’t allow people to get sick, and we can’t have our youth be so affected.”

But days afterward, Mr. Trump sent out a tweet that raised questions about his commitment to a ban that his administration is forging ahead with. “Let’s get counterfeits off the market, and keep young children from Vaping!” Mr. Trump wrote, making the implicit argument that vaping was a good alternative to cigarettes and shifting the focus counterfeit products.

The tweet, Mr. Trump has told aides, came after a discussion with his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, who warned him that the ban was going to be received poorly by his conservative supporters. On Thursday, the White House scheduled and then abruptly postponed a meeting with conservatives concerned about the vaping ban. One person briefed on the process said the agencies that would impose such a ban were still reviewing how to go about it.

Still, to the president’s critics, Mr. Trump’s apparent paralysis on policy issues like guns is indicative of a larger problem in his administration.

“It requires stepping out of entertainment frame and into a political leadership frame,” said Peter Ambler, the executive director of Giffords, an organization tackling gun violence. “He’s not strong enough to forge any sort of compromise that would get anything less than full support from his base. He does not have that degree of political power or savvy, and that’s why he ends up in a perpetual ‘Infrastructure Week.’”

Mr. Trump’s defenders said he was no different from his predecessors, who also found themselves stalled at times in their presidencies. But some political analysts said Mr. Trump’s situation was different.

“There are a lot of balls in the air here, and it’s not quite clear how he’s going to catch them, or where they’re going to land,” said David Axelrod, a former top adviser to President Barack Obama. “On some things, he has strong opinions, but on many things, he doesn’t. If you don’t have some core organizing principles, other than your own political well-being, it’s easy to get lost.”

Despite wanting to give the impression that he is decisive, said one person close to Mr. Trump, part of his holdup is that the president constantly changes his mind and equivocates. While Mr. Trump often worries about how his decisions will play, he is also anxious about other people making decisions for him. Figuring out where Mr. Trump will end up, the person said, is like trying to figure out what number the roulette ball will land on.

The president has few, if any, trusted advisers to assist him. And Mr. Trump has also been left even more isolated without his longtime assistant, Madeleine Westerhout, whom the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, fired last month after she indiscreetly shared details about his family in an off-the-record dinner with a small group of reporters in Bedminster, N.J., according to multiple White House officials.

Ms. Westerhout had been one of the president’s few organizing influences, the officials said. In the weeks since she left, Mr. Trump has gone back and forth on his feelings about Mr. Mulvaney, praising him one day and denouncing him the next, people familiar with the discussions said.

For longtime Republican analysts, Mr. Trump has a single track he should be traveling on, and any distractions that cause him to take his eyes off could be disastrous politically.

“Right now his big challenge is regaining the initiative on the economic narrative,” said David Winston, a Republican pollster who works with the House Republican Conference. “That is still what is concerning the country. That is the core dynamic he’s going to have to deal with leading into this next election.”

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Joe Biden Believes in the Good Will of Republicans. Is That Naïve?

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader and self-described “grim reaper” of liberal legislative dreams, settled into a routine of sorts during Barack Obama’s second term whenever he felt he was cornered by Democrats.

Mr. McConnell would rise from his chair in the Capitol, walk to his scheduler’s desk, smile a tight smile, and ask: “Can we get Joe Biden on the phone?”

That was precisely what happened in late 2012, when Republicans were still in the minority in the Senate, and Mr. McConnell hit an impasse with Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, over the elimination of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

As a New Year’s Eve deadline approached, Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell hammered out an agreement in a dozen phone calls, aides to both men said, with Mr. Obama signing off on every move. The two sides struck a deal that delivered some, but far from all, of what Mr. Reid wanted. This year, as he runs for president, Mr. Biden cites that deal and others he cut with Mr. McConnell as proof of his skill in achieving bipartisan legislation in an otherwise hyperpartisan environment.

“I’ll work with Mitch McConnell where we can agree,” Mr. Biden said this month — adding that on some issues, like gun control, there was no room for compromise.

That he could agree with Mr. McConnell on anything is a controversial statement for any Democrat to make these days. But in a sprawling field of 20 candidates, Mr. Biden stands out for his enduring belief in the good will of congressional Republicans. He insists that the G.O.P. has been bullied by President Trump but that civility and compromise will return to Washington once Mr. Trump is gone.

It’s a view that has been branded as naïve and wistful by some Democratic rivals as well as by the ascendant left wing of his party. That criticism is particularly pointed with regard to Mr. McConnell, whose decision to block Mr. Obama’s nomination of Merrick B. Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016 elevated him from mere obstructionist to arch-villain in the eyes of many Democrats.

The criticism has only intensified in recent days as Mr. McConnell has rebuffed Democratic calls to quickly move ahead with gun control legislation and lashed out at Democrats for reviving attacks on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

As a result, many in the party say, Mr. Biden’s comfortable relationship with the Senate leader is not only out of date, but dangerous.

“Mitch McConnell over the last decade has basically been on a crusade to destroy the Senate, so this idea that just getting rid of Trump would somehow send us back to some Golden Age in the Senate is ridiculous,” said Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, a rival presidential candidate.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160924719_3fadb429-34ce-4d7a-8713-16978cab3693-articleLarge Joe Biden Believes in the Good Will of Republicans. Is That Naïve? United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Jr Senate Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 McConnell, Mitch Democratic Party Biden, Joseph R Jr

Mr. Biden has said he is bound to Mr. McConnell and other congressional opponents by “civility” and an unbreakable, unwritten code.CreditTravis Dove for The New York Times

Mr. Bennet was one of three Democratic senators to vote against the 2012 budget deal, viewing it as an unnecessary capitulation that has emboldened Mr. McConnell.

“You have to have some pretty seriously rose-colored glasses to think that the last six years of the Obama administration showed great promise in terms of deliberation or legislation,” Mr. Bennet said.

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Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell were not especially close in their nearly 25 years together in the Senate. But interviews with two dozen people close to both men show that their relationship, while not quite an actual friendship, became stronger — and more mutually beneficial — during Mr. Obama’s second term. Their negotiations offered Mr. Biden a more powerful role, and gave Mr. McConnell a congenial bargaining partner and what the Senate leader viewed as the path of least resistance to striking a deal, in the view of Biden critics.

Mr. Biden and his defenders say he is being attacked for refusing to accept what they consider a false premise: that progress is possible only through the use of uncompromising political force.

“How in the hell are you going to get a damned thing done if you don’t talk to the other side?” said former Senator Alan Simpson, Republican of Wyoming, who struck up an across-the-aisle friendship with Mr. Biden in the 1970s.

“I see people saying he can’t be president because he talked to this one or that one,” Mr. Simpson added. “Here’s what I want to tell them: You think you can be a United States senator, and do your job, really do your job, by not talking to the other side? You have to talk to the commies, the kooks, the racists, the Tea Party, you have to talk to everybody.”

Mr. Biden, 76, has said he is bound to Mr. McConnell and other opponents by “civility” and an unbreakable, unwritten code that the Democratic leader Mike Mansfield preached to him early in his career: “It’s always appropriate to question another man’s judgment, but never appropriate to question his motives.”

As senators, Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell had little interaction. They served briefly together on the Judiciary Committee in the late 1980s, and worked on only one significant piece of legislation together, a 2007 measure seeking to improve human rights in Myanmar.

By 2010, however, Mr. McConnell had reached two conclusions that pushed him toward Mr. Biden, according to a dozen people close to both men, who spoke anonymously to disclose private discussions.

After a dozen calls in 2012, Mr. McConnell and Mr. Biden reached a compromise just before the New Year’s Eve deadline over how to address Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.CreditT.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

First, he did not believe he could work with Mr. Reid, a former prizefighter who viewed Mr. McConnell as an obstructionist who needed to be thwarted at all costs. Mr. McConnell, for his part, thought Mr. Reid was not a good-faith negotiator, and suspected Democrats were leaking details of negotiations, two people close to him said.

Then there was Mr. Obama. The two men felt deeply uncomfortable in each other’s presence, according to their aides and their own public statements. In his book, Mr. McConnell admitted he privately called the president “Professor Obama” because he was so prone to lecturing him. Mr. Obama and his aides thought Mr. McConnell was disdainful and taciturn, according to former members of Mr. Obama’s staff.

“From the beginning, it was clear that President Obama wanted Biden to take the lead with McConnell,” said Ted Kaufman, a longtime aide and friend to Mr. Biden. “Biden had a very realistic view of McConnell and knew that they had major differences.”

After being overshadowed during Mr. Obama’s first term, Mr. Biden embraced the opportunity to become a power player.

In 2010, Mr. McConnell and Mr. Biden negotiated a last-minute deal that prevented a government shutdown. A year later, Mr. McConnell hit the Biden speed dial again, this time to avert a potentially catastrophic failure to raise the debt limit precipitated by Tea Party Republicans in the House.

All of that was a dress rehearsal for 2012 and another showdown over the debt limit, the so-called fiscal cliff. Mr. Obama was fresh off a convincing re-election win over Mitt Romney that was propelled, in part, by his promise to scrap tax cuts for families earning more than $250,000, enacted by George W. Bush in 2001.

Mr. Reid staked out a maximalist position, saying he was willing to go over the cliff; Mr. Obama, despite having campaigned on the issue, was worried “that a sudden major tax hike and massive spending cut could together trigger another recession,” Gene Sperling, a top Obama economic aide, said in an interview.

[Which Democrats are leading the 2020 presidential race this week?]

Two days before the deadline, the talks stalled. That’s when Mr. McConnell placed his call to Mr. Biden, who was on Air Force Two. “Get off now!” Mr. McConnell said in a voice mail message, according to former aides to both men.

From there, things went fairly quickly. Mr. McConnell, aides said, was spooked by the election results and eager to cut a deal; Mr. Biden operated within a narrow range of parameters established by Mr. Obama and his economic team, but he also brought his own reassuring presence to the talks.

“When he’d say, ‘Mitch, it’s Joe. You know me. I am telling you there is no way we can go there’ — that kind of thing was always more convincing coming from him,” Mr. Sperling recalled.

Mr. McConnell after being sworn in by Mr. Biden for the 114th Congress in 2015.CreditLarry Downing /Reuters

At one tense moment, Mr. Biden — hunched over a speakerphone in his office with Mr. Sperling and other staff members — struggled to remember the name of Rohit Kumar, the McConnell adviser crunching the numbers for Republicans.

“Oh, hell, can I just call you Mitch’s guy?” Mr. Biden said, according to a person who was on the call — to laughter.

The deal they struck was a partial victory for Democrats, raising top tax rates for families earning more than $450,000 and extending some unemployment insurance benefits. “I feel very, very good,” Mr. Biden told reporters on New Year’s Day.

Others did not. A handful of progressive Democrats — including Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Bernie Sanders of Vermont — stormed into Mr. Reid’s office to complain, according to Democratic aides. He told them to vote with their consciences and informed the White House he would back the deal, but would not sell it. The measure passed easily.

During a follow-up meeting in the Oval Office in early 2013, Mr. Obama pressed Mr. McConnell to work on a long-term budget package before the 2014 midterms, when he would be running for re-election in Kentucky, Mr. Reid recalled in a recent phone interview. Mr. McConnell said that was impossible — Republican primary challengers could use it against incumbents.

Mr. Biden responded by saying, “Mitch, we want to see you come back,” Mr. Reid said.

In recent years, Mr. Biden has not been shy about criticizing Mr. McConnell’s actions, especially the decision to block Judge Garland. But he has been loath to denounce him personally — to the annoyance of some of his own staff members, according to a current Biden adviser.

Neither man has much incentive these days to highlight their bonhomie: Mr. McConnell will also be running for office in 2020, seeking a seventh term. His office declined to comment for this story.

But both men spoke affectionately about each other when there was less at stake politically.

In December 2016, Mr. McConnell offered an emotional send-off to Mr. Biden from the well of the Senate, recounting a boyhood battle that echoed his own struggles with polio as a toddler.

“The man we honor today wasn’t always a talker,” he said. “He suffered from a debilitating stutter for most of his childhood. He was teased for it. But he was determined to overcome it. And so he did.”

When Mr. Biden’s son Beau died in 2015, Mr. McConnell was the only Senate Republican to attend his funeral, a gesture that deeply moved Mr. Biden, according to a person close to Mr. McConnell.

In 2011, Mr. Biden, commenting on the large crowd that saw him speak at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center, peered at his host and said: “You want to see whether or not a Republican and Democrat really like one another. Well, I’m here to tell you we do.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Biden Thinks Working With McConnell Is a Plus. Is It?

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader and self-described “grim reaper” of liberal legislative dreams, settled into a routine of sorts during Barack Obama’s second term whenever he felt he was cornered by Democrats.

Mr. McConnell would rise from his chair in the Capitol, walk to his scheduler’s desk, smile a tight smile, and ask: “Can we get Joe Biden on the phone?”

That was precisely what happened in late 2012, when Republicans were still in the minority in the Senate, and Mr. McConnell hit an impasse with Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, over the elimination of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

As a New Year’s Eve deadline approached, Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell hammered out an agreement in a dozen phone calls, aides to both men said, with Mr. Obama signing off on every move. The two sides struck a deal that delivered some, but far from all, of what Mr. Reid wanted. This year, as he runs for president, Mr. Biden cites that deal and others he cut with Mr. McConnell as proof of his skill in achieving bipartisan legislation in an otherwise hyperpartisan environment.

“I’ll work with Mitch McConnell where we can agree,” Mr. Biden said this month — adding that on some issues, like gun control, there was no room for compromise.

That he could agree with Mr. McConnell on anything is a controversial statement for any Democrat to make these days. But in a sprawling field of 20 candidates, Mr. Biden stands out for his enduring belief in the good will of congressional Republicans. He insists that the G.O.P. has been bullied by President Trump but that civility and compromise will return to Washington once Mr. Trump is gone.

It’s a view that has been branded as naïve and wistful by some Democratic rivals as well as by the ascendant left wing of his party. That criticism is particularly pointed with regard to Mr. McConnell, whose decision to block Mr. Obama’s nomination of Merrick B. Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016 elevated him from mere obstructionist to arch-villain in the eyes of many Democrats.

The criticism has only intensified in recent days as Mr. McConnell has rebuffed Democratic calls to quickly move ahead with gun control legislation and lashed out at Democrats for reviving attacks on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

As a result, many in the party say, Mr. Biden’s comfortable relationship with the Senate leader is not only out of date, but dangerous.

“Mitch McConnell over the last decade has basically been on a crusade to destroy the Senate, so this idea that just getting rid of Trump would somehow send us back to some Golden Age in the Senate is ridiculous,” said Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, a rival presidential candidate.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160924719_3fadb429-34ce-4d7a-8713-16978cab3693-articleLarge Biden Thinks Working With McConnell Is a Plus. Is It? United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Jr Senate Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 McConnell, Mitch Democratic Party Biden, Joseph R Jr

Mr. Biden has said he is bound to Mr. McConnell and other congressional opponents by “civility” and an unbreakable, unwritten code.CreditTravis Dove for The New York Times

Mr. Bennet was one of three Democratic senators to vote against the 2012 budget deal, viewing it as an unnecessary capitulation that has emboldened Mr. McConnell.

“You have to have some pretty seriously rose-colored glasses to think that the last six years of the Obama administration showed great promise in terms of deliberation or legislation,” Mr. Bennet said.

[Sign up for our politics newsletter hosted by Lisa Lerer and join the conversation around the 2020 presidential race.]

Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell were not especially close in their nearly 25 years together in the Senate. But interviews with two dozen people close to both men show that their relationship, while not quite an actual friendship, became stronger — and more mutually beneficial — during Mr. Obama’s second term. Their negotiations offered Mr. Biden a more powerful role, and gave Mr. McConnell a congenial bargaining partner and what the Senate leader viewed as the path of least resistance to striking a deal, in the view of Biden critics.

Mr. Biden and his defenders say he is being attacked for refusing to accept what they consider a false premise: that progress is possible only through the use of uncompromising political force.

“How in the hell are you going to get a damned thing done if you don’t talk to the other side?” said former Senator Alan Simpson, Republican of Wyoming, who struck up an across-the-aisle friendship with Mr. Biden in the 1970s.

“I see people saying he can’t be president because he talked to this one or that one,” Mr. Simpson added. “Here’s what I want to tell them: You think you can be a United States senator, and do your job, really do your job, by not talking to the other side? You have to talk to the commies, the kooks, the racists, the Tea Party, you have to talk to everybody.”

Mr. Biden, 76, has said he is bound to Mr. McConnell and other opponents by “civility” and an unbreakable, unwritten code that the Democratic leader Mike Mansfield preached to him early in his career: “It’s always appropriate to question another man’s judgment, but never appropriate to question his motives.”

As senators, Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell had little interaction. They served briefly together on the Judiciary Committee in the late 1980s, and worked on only one significant piece of legislation together, a 2007 measure seeking to improve human rights in Myanmar.

By 2010, however, Mr. McConnell had reached two conclusions that pushed him toward Mr. Biden, according to a dozen people close to both men, who spoke anonymously to disclose private discussions.

After a dozen calls in 2012, Mr. McConnell and Mr. Biden reached a compromise just before the New Year’s Eve deadline over how to address Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.CreditT.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

First, he did not believe he could work with Mr. Reid, a former prizefighter who viewed Mr. McConnell as an obstructionist who needed to be thwarted at all costs. Mr. McConnell, for his part, thought Mr. Reid was not a good-faith negotiator, and suspected Democrats were leaking details of negotiations, two people close to him said.

Then there was Mr. Obama. The two men felt deeply uncomfortable in each other’s presence, according to their aides and their own public statements. In his book, Mr. McConnell admitted he privately called the president “Professor Obama” because he was so prone to lecturing him. Mr. Obama and his aides thought Mr. McConnell was disdainful and taciturn, according to former members of Mr. Obama’s staff.

“From the beginning, it was clear that President Obama wanted Biden to take the lead with McConnell,” said Ted Kaufman, a longtime aide and friend to Mr. Biden. “Biden had a very realistic view of McConnell and knew that they had major differences.”

After being overshadowed during Mr. Obama’s first term, Mr. Biden embraced the opportunity to become a power player.

In 2010, Mr. McConnell and Mr. Biden negotiated a last-minute deal that prevented a government shutdown. A year later, Mr. McConnell hit the Biden speed dial again, this time to avert a potentially catastrophic failure to raise the debt limit precipitated by Tea Party Republicans in the House.

All of that was a dress rehearsal for 2012 and another showdown over the debt limit, the so-called fiscal cliff. Mr. Obama was fresh off a convincing re-election win over Mitt Romney that was propelled, in part, by his promise to scrap tax cuts for families earning more than $250,000, enacted by George W. Bush in 2001.

Mr. Reid staked out a maximalist position, saying he was willing to go over the cliff; Mr. Obama, despite having campaigned on the issue, was worried “that a sudden major tax hike and massive spending cut could together trigger another recession,” Gene Sperling, a top Obama economic aide, said in an interview.

[Which Democrats are leading the 2020 presidential race this week?]

Two days before the deadline, the talks stalled. That’s when Mr. McConnell placed his call to Mr. Biden, who was on Air Force Two. “Get off now!” Mr. McConnell said in a voice mail message, according to former aides to both men.

From there, things went fairly quickly. Mr. McConnell, aides said, was spooked by the election results and eager to cut a deal; Mr. Biden operated within a narrow range of parameters established by Mr. Obama and his economic team, but he also brought his own reassuring presence to the talks.

“When he’d say, ‘Mitch, it’s Joe. You know me. I am telling you there is no way we can go there’ — that kind of thing was always more convincing coming from him,” Mr. Sperling recalled.

Mr. McConnell after being sworn in by Mr. Biden for the 114th Congress in 2015.CreditLarry Downing /Reuters

At one tense moment, Mr. Biden — hunched over a speakerphone in his office with Mr. Sperling and other staff members — struggled to remember the name of Rohit Kumar, the McConnell adviser crunching the numbers for Republicans.

“Oh, hell, can I just call you Mitch’s guy?” Mr. Biden said, according to a person who was on the call — to laughter.

The deal they struck was a partial victory for Democrats, raising top tax rates for families earning more than $450,000 and extending some unemployment insurance benefits. “I feel very, very good,” Mr. Biden told reporters on New Year’s Day.

Others did not. A handful of progressive Democrats — including Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Bernie Sanders of Vermont — stormed into Mr. Reid’s office to complain, according to Democratic aides. He told them to vote with their consciences and informed the White House he would back the deal, but would not sell it. The measure passed easily.

During a follow-up meeting in the Oval Office in early 2013, Mr. Obama pressed Mr. McConnell to work on a long-term budget package before the 2014 midterms, when he would be running for re-election in Kentucky, Mr. Reid recalled in a recent phone interview. Mr. McConnell said that was impossible — Republican primary challengers could use it against incumbents.

Mr. Biden responded by saying, “Mitch, we want to see you come back,” Mr. Reid said.

In recent years, Mr. Biden has not been shy about criticizing Mr. McConnell’s actions, especially the decision to block Judge Garland. But he has been loath to denounce him personally — to the annoyance of some of his own staff members, according to a current Biden adviser.

Neither man has much incentive these days to highlight their bonhomie: Mr. McConnell will also be running for office in 2020, seeking a seventh term. His office declined to comment for this story.

But both men spoke affectionately about each other when there was less at stake politically.

In December 2016, Mr. McConnell offered an emotional send-off to Mr. Biden from the well of the Senate, recounting a boyhood battle that echoed his own struggles with polio as a toddler.

“The man we honor today wasn’t always a talker,” he said. “He suffered from a debilitating stutter for most of his childhood. He was teased for it. But he was determined to overcome it. And so he did.”

When Mr. Biden’s son Beau died in 2015, Mr. McConnell was the only Senate Republican to attend his funeral, a gesture that deeply moved Mr. Biden, according to person close to Mr. McConnell.

In 2011, Mr. Biden, commenting on the large crowd that saw him speak at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center, peered at his host and said: “You want to see whether or not a Republican and Democrat really like one another. Well, I’m here to tell you we do.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Biden Thinks Working With McConnell Is a Plus. Is It?

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader and self-described “grim reaper” of liberal legislative dreams, settled into a routine of sorts during Barack Obama’s second term whenever he felt he was cornered by Democrats.

Mr. McConnell would rise from his chair in the Capitol, walk to his scheduler’s desk, smile a tight smile, and ask: “Can we get Joe Biden on the phone?”

That was precisely what happened in late 2012, when Republicans were still in the minority in the Senate, and Mr. McConnell hit an impasse with Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, over the elimination of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

As a New Year’s Eve deadline approached, Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell hammered out an agreement in a dozen phone calls, aides to both men said, with Mr. Obama signing off on every move. The two sides struck a deal that delivered some, but far from all, of what Mr. Reid wanted. This year, as he runs for president, Mr. Biden cites that deal and others he cut with Mr. McConnell as proof of his skill in achieving bipartisan legislation in an otherwise hyperpartisan environment.

“I’ll work with Mitch McConnell where we can agree,” Mr. Biden said this month — adding that on some issues, like gun control, there was no room for compromise.

That he could agree with Mr. McConnell on anything is a controversial statement for any Democrat to make these days. But in a sprawling field of 20 candidates, Mr. Biden stands out for his enduring belief in the good will of congressional Republicans. He insists that the G.O.P. has been bullied by President Trump but that civility and compromise will return to Washington once Mr. Trump is gone.

It’s a view that has been branded as naïve and wistful by some Democratic rivals as well as by the ascendant left wing of his party. That criticism is particularly pointed with regard to Mr. McConnell, whose decision to block Mr. Obama’s nomination of Merrick B. Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016 elevated him from mere obstructionist to arch-villain in the eyes of many Democrats.

The criticism has only intensified in recent days as Mr. McConnell has rebuffed Democratic calls to quickly move ahead with gun control legislation and lashed out at Democrats for reviving attacks on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

As a result, many in the party say, Mr. Biden’s comfortable relationship with the Senate leader is not only out of date, but dangerous.

“Mitch McConnell over the last decade has basically been on a crusade to destroy the Senate, so this idea that just getting rid of Trump would somehow send us back to some Golden Age in the Senate is ridiculous,” said Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, a rival presidential candidate.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160924719_3fadb429-34ce-4d7a-8713-16978cab3693-articleLarge Biden Thinks Working With McConnell Is a Plus. Is It? United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Jr Senate Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 McConnell, Mitch Democratic Party Biden, Joseph R Jr

Mr. Biden has said he is bound to Mr. McConnell and other congressional opponents by “civility” and an unbreakable, unwritten code.CreditTravis Dove for The New York Times

Mr. Bennet was one of three Democratic senators to vote against the 2012 budget deal, viewing it as an unnecessary capitulation that has emboldened Mr. McConnell.

“You have to have some pretty seriously rose-colored glasses to think that the last six years of the Obama administration showed great promise in terms of deliberation or legislation,” Mr. Bennet said.

[Sign up for our politics newsletter hosted by Lisa Lerer and join the conversation around the 2020 presidential race.]

Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell were not especially close in their nearly 25 years together in the Senate. But interviews with two dozen people close to both men show that their relationship, while not quite an actual friendship, became stronger — and more mutually beneficial — during Mr. Obama’s second term. Their negotiations offered Mr. Biden a more powerful role, and gave Mr. McConnell a congenial bargaining partner and what the Senate leader viewed as the path of least resistance to striking a deal, in the view of Biden critics.

Mr. Biden and his defenders say he is being attacked for refusing to accept what they consider a false premise: that progress is possible only through the use of uncompromising political force.

“How in the hell are you going to get a damned thing done if you don’t talk to the other side?” said former Senator Alan Simpson, Republican of Wyoming, who struck up an across-the-aisle friendship with Mr. Biden in the 1970s.

“I see people saying he can’t be president because he talked to this one or that one,” Mr. Simpson added. “Here’s what I want to tell them: You think you can be a United States senator, and do your job, really do your job, by not talking to the other side? You have to talk to the commies, the kooks, the racists, the Tea Party, you have to talk to everybody.”

Mr. Biden, 76, has said he is bound to Mr. McConnell and other opponents by “civility” and an unbreakable, unwritten code that the Democratic leader Mike Mansfield preached to him early in his career: “It’s always appropriate to question another man’s judgment, but never appropriate to question his motives.”

As senators, Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell had little interaction. They served briefly together on the Judiciary Committee in the late 1980s, and worked on only one significant piece of legislation together, a 2007 measure seeking to improve human rights in Myanmar.

By 2010, however, Mr. McConnell had reached two conclusions that pushed him toward Mr. Biden, according to a dozen people close to both men, who spoke anonymously to disclose private discussions.

After a dozen calls in 2012, Mr. McConnell and Mr. Biden reached a compromise just before the New Year’s Eve deadline over how to address Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.CreditT.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

First, he did not believe he could work with Mr. Reid, a former prizefighter who viewed Mr. McConnell as an obstructionist who needed to be thwarted at all costs. Mr. McConnell, for his part, thought Mr. Reid was not a good-faith negotiator, and suspected Democrats were leaking details of negotiations, two people close to him said.

Then there was Mr. Obama. The two men felt deeply uncomfortable in each other’s presence, according to their aides and their own public statements. In his book, Mr. McConnell admitted he privately called the president “Professor Obama” because he was so prone to lecturing him. Mr. Obama and his aides thought Mr. McConnell was disdainful and taciturn, according to former members of Mr. Obama’s staff.

“From the beginning, it was clear that President Obama wanted Biden to take the lead with McConnell,” said Ted Kaufman, a longtime aide and friend to Mr. Biden. “Biden had a very realistic view of McConnell and knew that they had major differences.”

After being overshadowed during Mr. Obama’s first term, Mr. Biden embraced the opportunity to become a power player.

In 2010, Mr. McConnell and Mr. Biden negotiated a last-minute deal that prevented a government shutdown. A year later, Mr. McConnell hit the Biden speed dial again, this time to avert a potentially catastrophic failure to raise the debt limit precipitated by Tea Party Republicans in the House.

All of that was a dress rehearsal for 2012 and another showdown over the debt limit, the so-called fiscal cliff. Mr. Obama was fresh off a convincing re-election win over Mitt Romney that was propelled, in part, by his promise to scrap tax cuts for families earning more than $250,000, enacted by George W. Bush in 2001.

Mr. Reid staked out a maximalist position, saying he was willing to go over the cliff; Mr. Obama, despite having campaigned on the issue, was worried “that a sudden major tax hike and massive spending cut could together trigger another recession,” Gene Sperling, a top Obama economic aide, said in an interview.

[Which Democrats are leading the 2020 presidential race this week?]

Two days before the deadline, the talks stalled. That’s when Mr. McConnell placed his call to Mr. Biden, who was on Air Force Two. “Get off now!” Mr. McConnell said in a voice mail message, according to former aides to both men.

From there, things went fairly quickly. Mr. McConnell, aides said, was spooked by the election results and eager to cut a deal; Mr. Biden operated within a narrow range of parameters established by Mr. Obama and his economic team, but he also brought his own reassuring presence to the talks.

“When he’d say, ‘Mitch, it’s Joe. You know me. I am telling you there is no way we can go there’ — that kind of thing was always more convincing coming from him,” Mr. Sperling recalled.

Mr. McConnell after being sworn in by Mr. Biden for the 114th Congress in 2015.CreditLarry Downing /Reuters

At one tense moment, Mr. Biden — hunched over a speakerphone in his office with Mr. Sperling and other staff members — struggled to remember the name of Rohit Kumar, the McConnell adviser crunching the numbers for Republicans.

“Oh, hell, can I just call you Mitch’s guy?” Mr. Biden said, according to a person who was on the call — to laughter.

The deal they struck was a partial victory for Democrats, raising top tax rates for families earning more than $450,000 and extending some unemployment insurance benefits. “I feel very, very good,” Mr. Biden told reporters on New Year’s Day.

Others did not. A handful of progressive Democrats — including Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Bernie Sanders of Vermont — stormed into Mr. Reid’s office to complain, according to Democratic aides. He told them to vote with their consciences and informed the White House he would back the deal, but would not sell it. The measure passed easily.

During a follow-up meeting in the Oval Office in early 2013, Mr. Obama pressed Mr. McConnell to work on a long-term budget package before the 2014 midterms, when he would be running for re-election in Kentucky, Mr. Reid recalled in a recent phone interview. Mr. McConnell said that was impossible — Republican primary challengers could use it against incumbents.

Mr. Biden responded by saying, “Mitch, we want to see you come back,” Mr. Reid said.

In recent years, Mr. Biden has not been shy about criticizing Mr. McConnell’s actions, especially the decision to block Judge Garland. But he has been loath to denounce him personally — to the annoyance of some of his own staff members, according to a current Biden adviser.

Neither man has much incentive these days to highlight their bonhomie: Mr. McConnell will also be running for office in 2020, seeking a seventh term. His office declined to comment for this story.

But both men spoke affectionately about each other when there was less at stake politically.

In December 2016, Mr. McConnell offered an emotional send-off to Mr. Biden from the well of the Senate, recounting a boyhood battle that echoed his own struggles with polio as a toddler.

“The man we honor today wasn’t always a talker,” he said. “He suffered from a debilitating stutter for most of his childhood. He was teased for it. But he was determined to overcome it. And so he did.”

When Mr. Biden’s son Beau died in 2015, Mr. McConnell was the only Senate Republican to attend his funeral, a gesture that deeply moved Mr. Biden, according to person close to Mr. McConnell.

In 2011, Mr. Biden, commenting on the large crowd that saw him speak at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center, peered at his host and said: “You want to see whether or not a Republican and Democrat really like one another. Well, I’m here to tell you we do.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Staring Down a 3-Week Deadline, Congress Braces for Another Brutal Funding Fight

WASHINGTON — Congress is bracing this month for another round of bitter spending battles over President Trump’s promised border wall and his immigration agenda, with only three weeks remaining before the government runs out of money.

With the memory of the nation’s longest government shutdown still fresh in their minds, White House officials and congressional leaders are pushing for a temporary agreement in the coming weeks to hold off a funding breach and allow more time to resolve the thorniest issues. But with senators set to convene on Tuesday for only the second time this year to debate the entire federal spending picture, the race to reconcile at least a fraction of the 12 necessary bills is particularly charged, even by the usual standards of the divided Congress.

“If both parties want to reach an agreement, we will reach an agreement,” Representative Nita M. Lowey, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said in an interview this month. “We have to see what the Senate actually delivers.”

There is some optimism that a portion of the government could be funded before the deadline.

“I’m confident we can make significant progress on regular appropriations this month,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, in his first floor remarks after the summer recess. “We have the parameters in place,” he added. “Now it is time for the rubber to meet the road.”

Lawmakers in both chambers say they expect Congress to approve a short-term spending bill to extend the deadline into late November or December. But cementing even that brief reprieve could be arduous: The administration has already asked for any such measure to include money for additional border barrier construction, and Democrats have said they would flatly refuse.

That leaves a deep sense of uncertainty on Capitol Hill about the prospect of resolving dozens of thorny spending issues that also have major political implications. Mr. Trump himself is yet another wild card, given his track record of upending bipartisan funding agreements at the last moment.

“The worst of all worlds, however, would be a government shutdown,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I don’t know of anyone who thinks that is a good idea.”

Lawmakers on the two Appropriations Committees, with reputations as some of the most bipartisan voices on Capitol Hill, have long agreed that left to their own devices, they could easily seal a deal well before the Oct. 1 deadline. But the extended window also widens the possibility that external factors — the administration’s efforts to build the wall along the southwestern border, or the fiscal hawks in Mr. Trump’s inner circle — could further complicate negotiations.

The fevered push to produce a legislative response to the deadly shootings in Texas and Ohio, for example, will most likely intensify pressure from House Democrats to ensure that government funding for gun violence research remains in the final legislation. And while the Pentagon’s redirection of military construction funds to pay for the border wall prompted a bipartisan outcry, there is little agreement over whether Congress should replace money it has explicitly denied Mr. Trump.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_158699304_c9c967c5-6f19-4d29-9de3-b0e10a0a85f0-articleLarge Staring Down a 3-Week Deadline, Congress Braces for Another Brutal Funding Fight United States Politics and Government Shutdowns (Institutional) Senate Committee on Appropriations Senate McConnell, Mitch Law and Legislation House of Representatives House Committee on Appropriations Homeland Security Department Customs and Border Protection (US) Border Patrol (US)

“The worst of all worlds, however, would be a government shutdown,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I don’t know of anyone who thinks that is a good idea.”CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

“We will strongly oppose any request by this administration to provide additional money for the projects it has decided to defund,” Senators Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, all Democrats on the Appropriations Committee, said this month in a statement. “The funds already appropriated should be used as Congress intended.”

Lawmakers will also have to confront the same debates that allowed the nation’s longest government shutdown to drag into the first few weeks of the 116th Congress: how much money to allocate to Mr. Trump’s border wall, and how much money to devote to agencies tasked with carrying out the administration’s hard-line immigration policies.

House Democrats, in particular, are eager to use the spending process to protest and rein in the administration’s immigration agenda, especially after efforts to append tougher humanitarian standards to a $4.6 billion supplemental bill failed this year. Reports of continuing squalor and overcrowding inside immigrant detention facilities and the refusal by the Republican-controlled Senate to take up a House-passed immigration overhaul have intensified pressure on Democratic leaders to cut off funding for immigration agencies.

Liberal activists have long called for withholding funds from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that carries out deportations, and Customs and Border Protection. But those efforts are all but certain to fall flat in the Senate and are unacceptable to Mr. Trump.

They are also likely to reignite divisions inside Democratic ranks, where progressives eager to undercut Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda are at odds with centrists in Republican-leaning districts who are reluctant to embrace any reduction in funding for law enforcement.

“You have to be a realist,” said Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia, who oversees the appropriations subcommittee responsible for funding the Department of Homeland Security.

“I can understand some of their frustrations, too, because of the acrimony over those three things: the wall, the Border Patrol and ICE,” Ms. Capito said in a phone call after returning from a tour of the southwestern border. “I don’t agree with them, but I see them.”

Congressional leaders agreed this year to remove any provisions deemed so-called poison pills — hot-button policy items that would prompt a partisan fight — as part of the budget agreement that set funding levels for the year and postponed the threat of the government capitulating on the nation’s debt.

Yet it is unclear how broadly each side chooses to define “poison pill,” which could complicate any negotiation.

“Do people want a deal or do they want a fight?” said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma and a member of the House Appropriations Committee. “There’s going to be plenty of yelling and screaming on our side of the aisle, too.”

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Both Parties See Control of the Senate as Pivotal. Here Are the Key Races They’re Watching.

WASHINGTON — The battle for the White House may be the marquee political event of 2020, but it is the rapidly intensifying struggle for control of the Senate that will determine how power is truly wielded in Washington come 2021.

As Republicans assess President Trump’s uncertain re-election chances, they see maintaining control of the Senate as their last line of defense against the prospect of Democrats controlling both the House and the White House. Democrats view gaining the Senate as a way to stymie Mr. Trump should he win a second term. And they say that winning the White House only to have Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, remain in charge of the Senate would stifle any legislative effort to undo the effects of the Trump presidency.

Strategists for both parties and independent analysts currently give Republicans the edge in narrowly holding on to the Senate given the small universe of highly competitive races. But the distinct possibility of wild cards adding to an already volatile atmosphere was underscored this week by the news that Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican of Georgia, will retire at the end of the year. His departure unexpectedly put another seat in play and gave Democrats a second pickup opportunity in a state they believe is trending increasingly blue.

“We have a decent shot,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader. “Republican incumbents and Donald Trump are far weaker in the challenger states than people realize.”

Democrats would need a net gain of three seats to assume Senate control if they win the White House and four if they do not since the vice president serves as the tiebreaker in a 50-50 Senate. “The math is simple,” the advocacy group Emily’s List heralded in a fund-raising email, “the work is hard.”

Both sides agree that just a handful of seats are truly up for grabs at this point, limiting Democratic opportunities for the gains they want.

“They need to put another seat on the board or pull another rabbit out of their hat in Alabama and I’m not sure they can,” said Jennifer E. Duffy, who handicaps Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_151133544_5d4859ad-2f7c-4880-ae4c-fa157ae23b1d-articleLarge Both Parties See Control of the Senate as Pivotal. Here Are the Key Races They’re Watching. United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Tillis, Thomas R Schumer, Charles E Primaries and Caucuses Politics and Government McSally, Martha McConnell, Mitch Kelly, Mark E (1964- ) Jones, Doug (1954- ) Isakson, Johnny Hickenlooper, John W Gideon, Sara (1971- ) Gardner, Cory S Ernst, Joni Elections, Senate Daines, Steve Cornyn, John Collins, Susan M Bullock, Steve

Mark Kelly, a prized Democratic recruit and former astronaut, is planning to challenge Senator Martha McSally for her seat in Arizona.CreditMike Christy/Arizona Daily Star, via Associated Press

Her Alabama reference points to the fact that Senator Doug Jones, a Democrat, faces re-election there after an upset victory in 2017 over Roy S. Moore, a former judge who was accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls. Washington Republicans are determined to deny Mr. Moore a rematch. But other Republican candidates will be heavily favored in a very conservative state, making Mr. Jones the only seriously endangered Democratic incumbent at the moment. The party is defending a dozen seats compared with 23 for Republicans.

In contrast to 2018, Republicans otherwise will be almost entirely on defense in 2020 with Republican-held seats in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina considered by both parties to be the top targets; seats in Iowa and elsewhere could move on to the list as the campaigns there develop.

Republicans believe they can hold on in most of the chief battleground states — Mr. Trump won two of the four in 2016, Arizona and North Carolina, and won one of Maine’s four electoral votes. And they say Democrats themselves are helping strengthen their hand.

Republicans in charge of the party’s overall Senate strategy say that the progressive agenda being embraced by leading Democratic presidential candidates and other prominent voices in the party — “Medicare for all,” the Green New Deal, public benefits for undocumented immigrants — is turning off the swing voters that Democrats will need to win Senate seats in places like Iowa and Arizona. Republicans are doing their best to brand Democrats as far out of the mainstream. The term “socialist” will be a regular feature of Republican ads and speeches.

“Every week Democrats offer up a different radical proposal that alienates mainstream voters in competitive states, so it’s best to let Democrats keep talking,” said Senator Todd Young of Indiana, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Some Democrats privately agree but say the identity of the party’s eventual presidential nominee will play a more significant role in determining the outcome of the battle for the Senate. And while Republicans have sought to tie the progressive policies to top contenders such as Mark Kelly, the former astronaut and a prized Democratic recruit against Senator Martha McSally, Republican of Arizona, he and the other Democratic candidates have distanced themselves from proposals such as a government-run health insurance program that would end private coverage.

Democrats say that it is Republican candidates who are caught in a squeeze, trapped between independent and suburban Republicans uncomfortable with Mr. Trump and base voters who will brook no dissent when it comes to the president. Mr. Schumer noted that the same crosscurrents helped Democrats defeat the Republican senator Dean Heller in Nevada last year.

“As Dean Heller learned, when they embrace Trump, they lose the middle, and when they run away from Trump, they lose the base,” he said in an interview, describing what he sees as the quandary for Republican incumbents in contested states.

Senator Susan Collins of Maine is facing challenges in Maine after supporting the confirmation of Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

Democrats say they see opportunity in the low poll numbers for embattled incumbents such as Senator Thom Tillis in North Carolina and Senator Susan Collins in Maine, who is facing the challenge of her political life after supporting the nomination of the Supreme Court justice Brett M. Kavanaugh as well as a tax bill that has proved unpopular with some in Maine. But Ms. Collins has shown in the past that she can overcome waves of discontent in her party and survive in a tough environment, similar to the way Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, has managed to defy the political odds in his state.

Democrats have struggled to land their preferred candidates in Georgia and Montana. They hold out hope that Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana will tire of his second-tier status in the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination and decide to run against Senator Steve Daines. John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado, cheered national Democrats when he made that same switch to oppose Senator Cory Gardner, perhaps the most threatened Republican incumbent, in a state Mr. Trump failed to carry in 2016.

But Mr. Hickenlooper’s decision to run for the Senate after his presidential bid faltered — and the national party’s embrace of that move — have angered the 11 Democrats who were already running for Mr. Gardner’s seat and do not seem inclined to give him a pass.

National Democrats have rallied behind several other candidates facing primaries, including the speaker of the Maine House, Sara Gideon, who is challenging Ms. Collins, and Theresa Greenfield of Iowa, who will be stressing her deep farm roots against Senator Joni Ernst, who won a first term in 2014 by emphasizing her own farm background.

They also like their candidates with military credentials such as Mr. Kelly and Cal Cunningham, a North Carolina Democrat and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan trying to unseat Mr. Tillis, who will face a primary of his own given Republican discontent with his performance.

Democrats believe they can potentially bring other races into play including Texas, where Senator John Cornyn, a former member of his party’s leadership, is running for a fourth term, and perhaps Kansas if Kris Kobach, a divisive Republican who lost the governor’s race last year, is the nominee for an open seat. Republicans have their eyes on Michigan, where John James, who lost a Senate race last year, is trying again with strong party backing against Senator Gary Peters, who Republicans think is vulnerable.

And both parties have their eyes on Kentucky, where Democrats would dearly love to defeat their nemesis, Mr. McConnell. But even if they cannot, they intend to focus on the race as a way of helping amplify the message that Democrats need to capture the Senate to thwart the man who has thwarted them so successfully. Mr. McConnell will be a part of every Senate race.

“Mitch McConnell is the Nancy Pelosi of 2020,” said Ms. Duffy, the analyst, referring to past Republican attempts to make the House Democratic leader the face of her party.

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Trump’s Waffling on Gun Control Confuses Legislative Picture

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-hulse-facebookJumbo Trump’s Waffling on Gun Control Confuses Legislative Picture United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Senate Republican Party McConnell, Mitch mass shootings Law and Legislation gun control El Paso, Tex, Shooting (2019) Dayton, Ohio, Shooting (2019)

WASHINGTON — After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Senator Mitch McConnell had a message for his Kentucky constituents as his 2014 re-election fight loomed.

“I want you to know that I will be doing everything in my power as Senate Republican leader, fighting tooth and nail, to protect your Second Amendment rights,” Mr. McConnell, a staunch opponent of limits on gun ownership, said in an automated call. He then helped quash expanded background check legislation backed by President Barack Obama and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers.

Responding to this month’s mass shootings in El Paso, Tex., and Dayton, Ohio, Mr. McConnell, his re-election fight again just ahead, was more measured. “Senate Republicans are prepared to do our part,” he said. But what exactly that “part” is has become increasingly unclear as the weeks pass.

Immediately after the shootings, President Trump opened the door to expanded background checks and other proposals to keep guns away from unstable people, eliciting Mr. McConnell’s promise to engage in talks about potential legislation. But the president then backed away from his position, saying that sufficient background checks were in place and the focus should instead be on mental health.

The retreat culminated in reports this week that Mr. Trump had told gun rights activists that he would not support universal background checks. Then the president muddled the issue yet again on Wednesday.

“I have an appetite for background checks,” he told reporters. “We’ll be doing background checks. We’re working with Democrats. We’re working with Republicans.”

Senate Republicans seem to have fallen into the morass. Top party members in the Senate have thrown cold water on the idea that Congress would pass even initiatives that enjoy bipartisan support, such as a national “red flag” law that would allow law enforcement and family members to go to court to get weapons removed from people who exhibit signs of being a danger.

Senator Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin Republican who is chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said on Capitol Hill on Tuesday that he thought “the debate really hasn’t changed much at all” after the most recent shootings. He said he did not expect significant legislation to reach the president.

Yet other Republican senators said they remain engaged in substantive talks among themselves and with White House officials about expanded background checks, mental health provisions and other proposals. No one is backing away despite the president’s waffling, they said.

“I have urged all parties to come together and come up with a responsible gun safety package that can pass the Senate,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine.

Mr. McConnell is famously loath to press forward with any legislation that sparks division among Republicans. He had to be strong-armed into bringing a criminal justice overhaul to the floor despite backing from the president and the vast majority of Senate Republicans because of the objections of a handful of vocal conservatives.

He also often cites an unwillingness to press legislation that Mr. Trump does not wholly support, saying it is a waste of time to send legislation to the president’s desk only to draw a veto. “I want to make a law, not just see this kind of political sparring going on endlessly, which never produces a result,” he said during an interview with a Louisville radio station when discussing gun legislation this month.

So if Mr. McConnell is looking for a way out of taking up gun safety legislation, he can just point to the president’s perceived opposition, throw in some criticism of Democrats and gun control activists for overreaching and try to move on.

Democrats say they do not intend to make it easy for him to do so.

“Senator McConnell has been begging President Trump to let him off the hook when it comes to passing universal background checks legislation to address the gun violence epidemic,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. “But on behalf of the families of the victims of gun violence and the 90 percent of Americans who support universal background checks, Senate Democrats will keep the pressure up and not let Senator McConnell off the hook.”

A refusal to take action not only would draw the condemnation of Democrats, but it could also further endanger some Republicans facing re-election — and, by extension, the party’s control of the Senate. Despite strong opposition from the gun lobby, expanded background checks and some other gun restrictions draw support from most voters in polls, particularly the women and suburbanites that senators such as Cory Gardner, the embattled Colorado Republican, will need next year to hold on to their seats.

Gun safety advocates say that they employed the issue in 2018 to oust a House Republican from Colorado, and that they intend to keep the heat on Mr. McConnell.

“I think that the question McConnell is going to have to answer is, is he going to send his members home empty-handed after a series of unspeakable tragedies,” said John Feinblatt, the president of the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.

Yet another gun stalemate in the Senate is likely to amplify one of the new nicknames for Mr. McConnell, “Massacre Mitch,” derived from his blockade of gun legislation, including a House-passed background check bill that Democrats want to be the basis of any final legislation.

Mr. McConnell not only has an extensive personal record in support of gun rights, but has also extended his pro-gun views to his main senatorial passion — judicial confirmations — by pushing the installation of judges and Supreme Court justices with an expansive view of the Second Amendment while opposing those he considers suspect on the issue.

McConnell allies note that he has not opposed all legislation arising out of past shootings and that he supported a plan to bolster school safety programs and to improve the record-keeping used in background checks.

Still, Republican colleagues say they were somewhat surprised by Mr. McConnell’s embrace of negotiations over new gun legislation. At the same time, Democrats viewed Mr. McConnell’s position as barely sufficient to ease the pressure on him. And they believed it helped him justify his refusal to bring the Senate back from recess to act on proposals, an approach that sapped some momentum from the drive for legislation.

The outcome will be impossible to predict before lawmakers, now scattered across the country on their August recess, return to Washington in early September to consult with one another in person. Any legislative progress will ultimately require the endorsement of the president, Democrats’ willingness to accept less than they would have preferred, and a calculation by Mr. McConnell that the political reward for gun legislation exceeds the political risk.

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