Presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden on Tuesday predicted that congressional Republicans will ultimately come around to acknowledge him as the new president and work with him in January.
“They will. They will,” a grinning Mr. Biden told reporters before leaving the stage at the Queen Theater, a historic movie house in Wilmington, Delaware, that serves as a transition headquarters.
Earlier, he said much of the Republican Party is intimidated by President Trump but that he himself is by nature “not a pessimist.”
“I think there are enough Republicans who’ve already spoken out … there’ll be a larger number once the election is declared and I’m sworn in to be able to get things done,” he said. “I think we can get a lot done.”
Mr. Biden’s confidence flew in the face of cold arithmetic on Capitol Hill, where his dreams for “Bidencare” and other liberal policy plans appear to be over before the congressional debate even starts.
Republicans could be the least of Mr. Biden’s worries as he prepares to assume the White House; his Democrats are getting pulled in all sorts of directions.
“They’ve got a civil war that’s going on in their party right now and all these white, liberal Democrats that have been around for a long time — they’re all afraid they’re going to be the next Joe Crowley or the next Eliot Engel,” said Jim McLaughlin, a pollster who has worked with the Trump campaign.
Mr. Crowley, then the chairman of the House Democratic caucus, lost a 2018 primary to liberal firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Mr. Engel, the New York Democrat who leads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, lost a primary this year to another progressive insurgent, Rep.-elect Jamaal Bowman.
Parts of the GOP agenda, like promoting free-market capitalism, are generally popular among voters overall, Mr. McLaughlin said.
“People said President Trump wasn’t capable of doing this, but he expanded the coalition,” the pollster said.
Liberal progressives are also coming to grips with the likelihood that their calls — and in some cases demands — for Mr. Biden to place far-left warriors such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernard Sanders of Vermont in Cabinet posts are going nowhere.
Ms. Warren, meanwhile, cautioned the incoming Biden administration against filling his Cabinet with lobbyists.
“Trump’s government — run by the corporate lobbyists, for the corporate lobbyists — has devastated programs and rules that help working people,” Ms. Warren said this week on Twitter. “Americans have made it clear: the last thing they want is for Washington to again hand over the keys to giant corporations and lobbyists.”
The speculation over Ms. Warren heading up the Treasury Department has tapered off as the focus has turned to Lael Brainard.
A member of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, Ms. Brainard served as deputy national economic adviser in the Clinton administration, where she helped implement the North American Free Trade Agreement and prepared for China’s entry into the World Trade Organization.
As the GOP toed the White House line that the election is still in dispute, Republicans signaled that voters across the country did not embrace the far left’s calls for a “Green New Deal” to combat climate change or the “defund the police” movement.
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, who the Senate GOP re-installed Tuesday as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s top deputy, said the 2020 elections made it clear that voters rejected the Democratic agenda.
“You look at the defund the police movement, the Green New Deal movement — all those things it was pretty clear that voters across this country said we don’t want anything to do with that,” Mr. Thune said.
If current vote totals hold, Republicans will be in control of at least 50 U.S. Senate seats in the next Congress to Democrats’ 48, pending two runoff elections in Georgia in early January.
But liberals were dealt another blow this week when Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, said he wouldn’t support ending the chamber’s 60-vote filibuster threshold for most legislation even if there’s a 50-50 split next year.
“I’m not going to vote for that,” Mr. Manchin said Tuesday as he decried GOP “scare tactics” in the coming Georgia elections.
“Don’t throw this fear tactic in that if you vote for the Democrats, we’re going to throw this [into] chaos and it’s going to be a socialist type of administration within Congress,” he said on CNN. “That’s not going to happen.”
Mr. Biden said the balance of power in the Senate shouldn’t have too big of an influence on whom he expects to name to Cabinet posts that require U.S. Senate confirmation.
“I take [Mitch] McConnell at his word,” Mr. Biden said. “I understand he said he will make it clear who he’s prepared to support and not support.”
Mr. Biden said he hopes to offer a few potential names for his Cabinet by Thanksgiving.
Though Mr. Biden can pursue parts of his agenda through executive order and federal rule-making, the Senate GOP’s filibuster power would be a crippling blow to many of his priorities, including COVID relief, a $2 trillion climate-change proposal, and his vow to expand Obamacare.
Democrats, meanwhile, tried to preemptively blame Mr. McConnell for the expected gridlock.
Senate Democratic Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois recalled Mr. McConnell’s remarks ahead of the 2010 midterms that a top priority for the GOP was making Barack Obama a one-term president.
“If this is the same Mitch McConnell … the atmosphere and environment are not conducive for productive work in the Senate,” Mr. Durbin said.
On COVID-19 relief and government spending bills, two immediate legislative priorities for Mr. Biden, Republicans signaled Tuesday that they’re going to be holding the line on Mr. Trump’s priorities.
Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, said he was disappointed to hear House Speaker Nancy Pelosi isn’t budging on her demands on the size of a COVID-19 relief package, likely the most immediate legislative item on the agenda.
“If that’s her position, she needs to go to bed. She’s drunk,” Mr. Kennedy said.
Senate Republicans also rolled out proposed 2021 spending bills on Tuesday that include funding for Mr. Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall — a perpetual red line for Democrats and an issue that helped careen the federal government into a shutdown from December 2018 to January 2019.
• Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.