One day after winning the most expensive U.S. Senate race in the country, Democrat Tim Kaine said he wants to be part of a “common ground caucus” that will work across party lines to put the country’s fiscal house in order and restore public confidence in a dysfunctional Congress.
“I think if we listen to the voices of the electorate, they are telling us over and over and over again they want us to work together,” Kaine said today in a news conference at his Richmond campaign headquarters.
Kaine defeated Republican George Allen in a battle of former governors Tuesday to claim the Senate seat held by retiring Democrat Jim Webb. Kaine will team up with fellow Virginia Democrat Mark Warner in the Senate and plans to be part of the bipartisan coalition Warner is assembling to push toward a long-term deficit and debt-reduction plan.
“The thing that we most need to do in both houses of Congress is really commit to compromise and working together,” Kaine said. “I’ve said from the very beginning of this campaign that that was what was missing in Congress.”
Kaine said he hopes Congress can take action in its lame duck session to avert the January fiscal cliff that would trigger deep defense and domestic spending cuts and expiration of all the George W. Bush-era tax cuts. Kaine said a compromise could give the economy a shot in the arm and serve as “a springboard into the bigger-picture discussion about getting our fiscal house in order.”
“I actually believe that the principal shackle around the American economy right now has been congressional dysfunction,” said Kaine, who showed up in a sweater and blue jeans to chat up reporters.
Warner appeared with Kaine in a campaign ad portraying them as a team that would work together in Washington. Warner worked vigorously for Kaine’s election and was jubilant at the Democrats’ Richmond victory party Tuesday night.
Because of his role in the Senate’s “Gang of Six,” Warner could be a key player in negotiating a deficit and debt-reduction plan. But he also has left open the possibility of making another run for governor in 2013. Warner said Tuesday night that he will make a final decision about his political future by Thanksgiving. Few Democrats expect him to leave the Senate. Kaine said today that he hopes Warner will stay put.
“I really want Mark to stay in the Senate,” Kaine said. “I think Mark is doing some really important work. That bridge-building is being done and what Mark’s doing with the Gang of Six and others is not just fiscal, it’s the effort to rebuild these traditions of comity. . . . He’s playing a really valuable role.”
As for his own role, Kaine said he hopes to land an assignment on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, to focus on education and workforce issues. He also said he would “really like” to serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, following in the footsteps of Webb and former Virginia Sen. John Warner.
The spending by the candidates, political committees and outside groups on the Virginia Senate race exceeded $80 million. Nearly $30 million was spent by outside groups opposing Kaine, and much of it came from groups that don’t disclose their donors.
Kaine, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said his campaign could countered the torrent of money from outside groups by building a “big, big network” of small-dollar donors and concentrating on voter persuasion.
“One of the things that made me very, very proud about the outcome last night is that I think the outcome in Virginia spoke very clearly to the notion that grassroots, person-to-person politics can beat big checks and negative ads,” Kaine said today.
– Michael Sluss