RICHMOND — Democrat Tim Kaine said Wednesday he hopes to add his voice to the “common-ground caucus” in a U.S. Senate rife with partisan gridlock and that he wants to serve with Sen. Mark R. Warner, who plans to decide by Thanksgiving whether he will run for Virginia governor once again in 2013.
A day after winning election to the U.S. Senate over Republican George Allen, Mr. Kaine told reporters he would be focused on jobs and the economy, among other issues, and that the principal obstacle to fixing the country’s economy is congressional dysfunction.
He said he spoke with current and former senators from both parties as he was making the decision on whether to run and recounted some specific words of wisdom from Republican ex-Sen. John W. Warner, who represented Virginia in the Senate for 30 years.
“One of the things he said which I found pretty compelling, he said, ‘Look, the gridlock seems bad, but it’s not in the water supply, and it’s not sick-building syndrome,’” Mr. Kaine said. “It’s in the character and the inclinations of people who walk in that building. And that means that any given morning, it could change if different people walk in or the people who are walking in decide, ‘Look, we’ve got to solve problems. The American public wants us to solve problems.’”
Mr. Kaine said he hopes to find a freshman Republican senator with similar interests with whom he can work and that he would start the search right away. He also expressed interest in serving on the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee and the Armed Services Committee.
Mr. Kaine joked that he was getting used to having Mark R. Warner, who is no relation to John W. Warner, call him “junior” — as in Virginia’s junior senator — and that he really wants him to stay in the Senate. Mr. Warner is one member of the bipartisan “Gang of Six” that has labored toward finding a so-called “grand bargain” on a deal to fix the country’s debt problem.
“I think Mark is doing some really important work,” Mr. Kaine said. “What Mark’s doing with the Gang of Six and others is not just fiscal — it’s the effort to rebuild the traditions of comity in the Senate. He’s playing a really valuable role, and I hope he’ll continue in that role, but he’s going to make his own decision.”
Terry McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman and fundraiser for former President Bill Clinton, has been preparing for a run for Virginia governor, but has indicated that he wants to see what Mr. Warner does before making a decision himself.
Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, meanwhile, echoed Mr. Kaine’s calls for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground. He said Wednesday afternoon he had not spoken to Mr. Kaine directly but that he left him a congratulatory voicemail and received a “very gracious” voicemail from Mr. Kaine in response.
Mr. McDonnell conceded that he was disappointed with the results of both the presidential race and the U.S. Senate race, but he congratulated President Obama as well for running a successful campaign in such difficult times. When asked what advice he would give to Virginia’s soon-to-be junior senator — obviously not a member of his own party — Mr. McDonnell said the advice would the same advice he’d give to someone in Mr. Kaine’s position, regardless of their political affiliation.
“Washington is just dead broken,” Mr. McDonnell said. “We have to stop the hyperpartisanship, stop the ‘we win, you lose,’ stop the blame game, and find out how to solve problems.”
Mr. McDonnell said he’s tried to bring such a bipartisan culture to his term and that while the two parties have their differences in Richmond, they find ways to put them aside when it matters.
“Try to put the interests of your country first,” Mr. McDonnell said. “The people have now spoken, and they’ve chosen to have a Republican House and a Democratic [Senate] and a Democratic president. So both sides can’t win and just do what they want to do. You’ve got to find that common ground.”