WASHINGTON — Still reckoning with a crushing election loss that relegated them to at least two more years in the minority on Capitol Hill, Georgia’s four Democrats are divided on how the party should handle President-elect Donald Trump going forward.
With mere days until the New York businessman takes the oath of office, some Georgia Democrats say they’re open to working with him and congressional Republicans on select issues such as national security, infrastructure and rural development. Others can barely stomach the thought of a Trump presidency, much less the idea of partnering with him on any initiatives.
What’s more, the wounds from the years when Senate Republicans blockaded much of President Barack Obama’s agenda still appear to be fresh.
The divisions leave questions about whether Democrats will quickly line up to become the party of loyal opposition or whether they’re open to helping Trump carry out the more centrist parts of his agenda.
Atlanta Democrat John Lewis, the most senior member of Georgia’s congressional delegation, appears to fall into the former category.
The civil rights icon went on NBC’s “Meet the Press” over the weekend and said it would be “almost impossible for me to work with” Trump, in an interview that drew the wrath of the President-elect on Twitter.
While all four Democrats have indicated repealing the Affordable Care Act is a red line, some have indicated in recent interviews they’re more amenable to crossing the aisle on other subject matters.
Sanford Bishop of Albany, a moderate who represents much of Georgia’s Southwest, said he’s particularly open to working with Trump on economic development and agriculture issues that could benefit his largely rural district.
“I’m not interested in labels so much as I’m interested in policies,” said Bishop. “I don’t want to fight, I want to fix.”
Atlanta’s David Scott, another centrist, said Democrats need to stick with their core principles but that it would be unwise not to have a policy wishlist handy that could open the door to possible negotiations with Republicans.
“This is a golden opportunity,” he said. “We’ve got to put our brains together and our minds together and ask for something that will help our people. Make them do this. You can’t do it if you don’t ask. And you can’t ask if you don’t have something to ask for.”
Hank Johnson of Lithonia said overhauling entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security should be off the table but that it’s important to send a message that Democrats are willing to work with Republicans on other issues such as infrastructure and defense.
“We’re not going to do what the Republicans did, which is just say no to everything. Even though, let’s admit, that was a winning formula for them,” Johnson said. “But it was bad for the nation and the world and so Democrats will not repeat that strategy.”