TIME 2016 Election

Chris Christie Launches PAC in Preparation for 2016 Presidential Run

Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines
Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 24, 2015 Jim Young—Reuters

Several other Republican candidates have long-standing political groups as well

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie launched a federal political action committee, or PAC, Monday as he seeks to lay the groundwork for a likely 2016 presidential campaign.

The new group, Leadership Matters for America PAC, will allow the 52-year-old to travel the country to raise money and support like-minded politicians, but it can’t specifically advocate on his behalf. The launch comes two days after Christie appeared at a conservative cattle call in Iowa, where he sought to prove he could reach out to a skeptical party base.

The PAC’s website features a smiling Christie holding court at one of his signature town halls, and its mission statement hews closely to Christie’s rapidly developing stump speech. News of the PAC’s formation was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

“America has been a nation that has always controlled events and yet today events control us,” it states. “Why? Because leadership matters. It matters if we want to restore America’s role in the world, find the political will to take on the entrenched special interests that continually stand in the way of fundamental change, reform entitlement spending at every level of government, and ensure that every child, no matter their zip code, has access to a quality education.”

Former Republican National Committee Finance chairman Ray Washburne, who announced earlier this month he would step down to take a position with Christie, will hold the same role for the new group. Former Republican Governors Association executive director Phil Cox and longtime Christie strategist Mike DuHaime will serve as political advisers. Matt Mowers, the outgoing New Hampshire GOP executive director, and Phil Valenziano, a former aide to Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, will be the PAC’s on-the-ground presence in those two presidential early states.

Earlier this month, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush launched a leadership PAC and a super PAC in preparation for his presidential run. Several other Republican candidates have long-standing political groups as well.

Christie is set to return to Iowa on Feb. 9 to address the Dallas County Republican Party, and has planned trips across the country in coming weeks to fundraise and boost his political profile. He is not expected to make a final decision on his candidacy until the spring.

TIME

Why Mitt Romney Won’t Win (Again)

Will this iteration of the two-time presidential candidate come equipped with a backbone?

It is always wonderful to see a twice-failed politician suck it up and sort of announce he’s going to be running for President again. Mitt Romney’s allies say he will be different this time. There is talk of a new personal style that was really his old personal style—as seen in the Netflix documentary Mitt—but was brutally suppressed by his … political consultants, most of whom seem back on board. There is talk of Romney emphasizing the eradication of poverty as one of his three campaign pillars. There is talk about his being less gaffe-prone this time. (Translation of last two sentences: he will try to act like a rich guy who cares for the 47%.) He will “position” himself just to the right of Jeb Bush.

These are the things politicians and horse-race reporters talk about.

What they don’t talk about is whether this iteration of Romney will come equipped with a backbone. The last two certainly didn’t, to the point of embarrassment. In neither campaign did Romney take a position that was even vaguely controversial with his party’s rabid base. He was disgraceful on immigration, “self-deporting” himself to Dantean circles of chicanery. He was craven on fiscal sanity, opposing in one debate—along with all his fellow candidates—a budget proposal that would include 90% cuts and 10% revenue increases. Worst of all, he self-lobotomized on the subject of health care, dumbing himself down egregiously, denying that his (successful) universal-health-coverage program in Massachusetts was the exact same thing as Barack Obama’s (increasingly successful) national version. He never expressed a real emotion—not anger, not sadness, not unscripted laughter. His manner was as slick as his hair.

That was why he lost. Not because of gaffes or because he wasn’t conservative enough (as extreme conservatives claim) or because he was just too rich. He lost because he seemed computer-animated. There was nothing real to him. He was “positioned.” And so he was deemed untrustworthy by the crucial sliver of attention-paying voters in the middle of the spectrum who decide most elections.

So now he’s back and will be successful this time—his backers say—because he’ll be even slicker. No more gaffes. He’ll also be more personal—although it has yet to be determined whether he’ll be an actual person (many market tests to come before such a crucial decision is made). He will try to compete in the moderate primary along with Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, and perhaps a few others. This will be difficult. His only competition to the left of Attila the Hun last time was Jon Huntsman, who spoke Chinese in one of the debates—not a wise choice in a party of xenophobes—and presented a credible plan for the “too big to fail” Wall Street banks to be dismantled … in the party of bankers.

Bush is immediately more credible than Romney. He opposed his party’s positions on immigration and educational testing. He is also bilingual—Spanish!—and seems a man who has actually existed in the America of the past quarter-century, suffering family problems along with the rest of us. We still don’t know all that much about him. He was a very good governor. I’ve found him to be a smart and bold policy wonk when we’ve spoken one-on-one. (Tragically, I felt the same way about Romney—in the days before his advisers prohibited one-on-ones.) The biggest question about Bush in my mind is whether he returns to his father’s brilliantly sophisticated foreign policy or to his brother’s disastrous Cheney-dominated first term in office, or to George W.’s more reasonable second term, marked by realistic aides like National Security Adviser Steve Hadley and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Does he think strategically or tactically?

As for Christie, who may be left behind in the high-powered race to come, his greatest appeal is that he is the exact opposite of Mitt Romney. No political consultant could make him up. As a human being from the greater New York metropolitan area, I will enjoy every moment of his campaign if he doesn’t try to Romnify himself.

Does this mean Mitt is pretoasted? I wouldn’t say that. He could surprise us all and come out in favor of breaking up the big banks—ending “moral hazard”—and for reforms that would take the tax advantages away from the financial sector (including his own self). In fact, I suspect that if he had done that in 2012, he might be President today. But think of the speech he could give …

 

TIME 2016

Here’s Where 16 Potential Presidential Candidates Stand On Gay Marriage

Ted Cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) talks with reporters after the Senate voted on a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the government through the next fiscal year on Dec. 13, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Lauren Victoria Burke—AP

For the most part, the gay marriage debate now falls along partisan lines: Democrats support it, Republicans oppose.

But within the crowded field of likely 2016 presidential contenders, there’s a lot of room for nuance. The would-be candidates have made much different arguments and have varying records on the issue.

Meantime, the issue continues to change. On Jan. 6, Florida became the second-largest state to recognize gay marriage, bringing the total to 36. And on Friday, the Supreme Court will meet privately to decide whether to consider cases that could lead to a more definitive ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.

Here’s a look at what 16 major presidential contenders think, in order from most opposed to most supportive.

Opposed

Bobby Jindal

What he says: “I’m not a weathervane on this issue and I’m not going to change my position. I continue to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.” (Washington Examiner)

What he’s done: The governor of Louisiana backs a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman and supported a gay marriage ban as a member of Congress.

Where it stands in his state: Same-sex marriage remains illegal in Louisiana, but there is a pending appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on a 2014 ruling that upheld Louisiana’s ban.

Rick Perry

What he says: “Texans spoke loud and clear by overwhelmingly voting to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in our Constitution, and it is not the role of the federal government to overturn the will of our citizens.” (POLITICO)

What he’s done: The Republican governor of Texas framed the marriage debate as a states’ rights issue in the wake of a 2014 decision deeming Texas’s ban unconstitutional.

Where it stands in his state: A state ban on same sex marriage was recently ruled unconstitutional, but the judge said it could continue to be enforced pending an appeal.

Ted Cruz

What he says: “If you look at other nations that have gone down the road towards gay marriage… It gets enforced against Christian pastors who decline to perform gay marriages, who speak out and preach biblical truths on marriage.” (Huffington Post)

What he’s done: The Republican senator from Texas introduced the State Marriage Defense Act in 2014, which would allow states to define marriage.

Where it stands in his state: A ban was ruled unconstitutional but is still in effect.

Rick Santorum

What he says: Marriage is “about a unity of men and women, for the purposes of having and raising children, and giving the child their birthright, which is to be raised by their natural mother and natural father.” (Mediaite)

What he’s done: The former Republican senator from Pennsylvania is such a well-known opponent of same-sex marriage that activists mounted a viral campaign to mar his Google search results.

Where it stands in his state: Same-sex marriage has been legal in Pennsylvania since May.

Ben Carson

What he says: “Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are. They don’t get to change the definition.” (Baltimore Sun)

What he’s done: Carson is a surgeon, not a career politician, so he hasn’t done anything yet.

Where it stands in his state: Same-sex marriage has been legal in Maryland since 2012.

Mike Huckabee

What he says: On Republicans becoming more moderate on gay marriage: “If the Republicans want to lose guys like me and a whole bunch of still God-fearing, Bible-believing people, go ahead.” (MSNBC)

What he’s done: The former Republican governor of Arkansas signed a law in 1997 banning gay marriage in the state. He’s also called for impeachment of a judge who overturned the ban.

Where it stands in his state: A U.S. district judge ruled in November that the same-sex marriage ban in Arkansas is unconstitutional, but allowed the ban to continue pending appeal.

Marco Rubio

What he says: “There is a growing intolerance on this issue, intolerance of those who continue to support traditional marriage… Supporting the definition of marriage as one man and one woman, is not anti-gay. It is pro-traditional marriage.” (POLITICO)

What he’s done: The Republican senator from Florida says that he believes states should handle marriage, not Congress.

Where it stands in his state: At midnight on Jan. 6, Florida became the 36th and second-largest state in the union to allow gay marriage.

Personally Against, But Politically Ambiguous

Scott Walker

What he says: “It doesn’t really matter what I think now. It’s in the constitution.” (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

What he’s done: As a Milwaukee County executive, Walker opposed efforts to provide health care benefits to gay partners of county employees. He was openly in favor of a 2006 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and opposed a law allowing gay couples to get certain county benefits.

Where it stands in his state: Same-sex marriage has been legal in Wisconsin since 2014, when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals from Wisconsin and four other states seeking to keep their same-sex marriage bans.

Chris Christie

What he says: “I don’t think there’s some referee who stands up and says, ‘OK, now it’s time for you to change your opinion,.’ The country will resolve this over a period of time. But do I think it’s resolved? No.” (POLITICO)

What he’s done: The Republican governor of New Jersey has long opposed gay marriage, vetoing a bill to legalize it in New Jersey in 2012. But in 2014 he dropped his appeal of the state Supreme Court judge’s decision that the ban was unconstitutional.

Where it stands in his state: Same-sex marriage has been legal in New Jersey since 2014.

Rand Paul

What he says: “I believe in old-fashioned traditional marriage but I don’t really think the government needs to be too involved in this and I think the Republican Party can have people on both sides of the issue.” (CNN)

What he’s done: The Republican senator from Kentucky said the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to strike down a portion of the Defense of Marriage act was appropriate and that “as a country we can agree to disagree.” (ABC News)

Where it stands in his state: Same-sex marriage is banned in Kentucky.

Jeb Bush

What he says: “We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law. I hope that we can also show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue — including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty.” (The Washington Post)

What he’s done: In 1994, during his first run for governor, Bush wrote an op-ed in the Miami Herald that said, “[Should] sodomy be elevated to the same constitutional status as race and religion? My answer is No,” reports Buzzfeed.

Where it stands in his state: Florida began recognizing same-sex marriage this month.

Somewhat Supportive

John Kasich

What he says: “I just think marriage is between a man and a woman, but if you want to have a civil union that’s fine with me.” (Huffington Post)

What he’s done: The Republican governor of Ohio quickly walked back his civil union comment, saying he used the term “loosely.” He has demonstrated support for an appeal of an upcoming ruling by a federal judge that will require Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states where it is legal.

Where it stands in his state: Same-sex marriage is banned in Ohio.

In Favor

Hillary Clinton

What she says: “It really became very clear to me that if we’re going to support marriage in our country, it should be available to everyone regardless of who they love and that this marriage equality issue is a great human rights issue.” (Huffington Post)

What she’s done: The former Secretary of State did not support gay marriage in her 2008 presidential campaign, but she issued a video announcing her support for it in 2013 after she left the State Department.

Where it stands in her state: Same-sex marriage has been legal in New York since 2011.

Martin O’Malley

What he says: “All of us, wherever we happen to stand on the marriage equality issue, can agree that all our children deserve the opportunity to live in a loving, caring, committed, and stable home, protected equally under the law.” (Huffington Post)

What he’s done: The Democratic governor of Maryland signed same sex marriage into law in his state in 2012, making it the eighth state to allow gay marriage.

Where it stands in his state: Same-sex marriage has been legal in Maryland since 2012.

Bernie Sanders

What he says: On the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act: “This is good news for all Americans who believe in the words carved in marble on the front of the Supreme Court building, equal justice under law.” (Press release)

What he’s done: The Democratic senator from Vermont voted against the anti-gay marriage Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, and voted no on a constitutional amendment against it in 2006.

Where it stands in his state: Same-sex marriage has been legal in Vermont since 2009.

Elizabeth Warren

What she says: “Marriage equality is morally right.” (POLITICO)

What she’s done: The Democratic senator from Massachusetts supported repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, parts of which the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in 2013.

Where it stands in her state: In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to recognize same-sex marriage.

TIME Economy

The Left’s Opening Gambit for 2016 Is All About Your Paycheck

Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth Warren Sen. Elizabeth Warren ponders the nation's problems at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on anti-money laundering on March 7, 2013. Cliff Owen—AP

The unifying value for progressives in 2016? Wages, if leaders like Elizabeth Warren and Richard Trumka have anything to say about it

See correction below.

If unemployment and slow growth were the central economic issues of the last presidential election cycle, wage stagnation and inequality are shaping up to be the focal point of 2016. The U.S. is now solidly in recovery, posting 5 % GDP growth in the third quarter of last year. But growth isn’t necessarily the same as shared prosperity. Inflation-adjusted middle class incomes have actually gone down for the last decade, something even the most rabid free market advocates won’t quarrel with statistically. And working class wages have been stagnant for much longer than that. (On balance, men with only high school degrees haven’t gotten a raise since 1968.) In an economy made up of 70 % consumer spending, that’s obviously an economic problem: no spending equals no business investment equals no jobs equals no spending…you get the picture. But inequality is increasingly taking on social and cultural dimensions, evident in everything from the debate over immigration to the killings that have rocked Ferguson and New York.

Put simply, chronically flat wages are no longer just about the lifestyle divide between the 1 % and everyone else. They’ve become an issue of social justice, democracy, and stability.

The question is, who has an answer to the problem? Liberals will be taking a first crack at it this Wednesday (Jan. 7) at the AFL-CIO-sponsored summit on Raising Wages. As Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, who’ll be giving the keynote address, told me in an exclusive interview in advance of the summit, “Things are getting better, yes, but only for some. Families are working harder, but not doing better. And they feel the game is rigged against them–and guess what–it is!”

In her speech, Warren will be talking through numbers from a database compiled by French academic Thomas Piketty (author of the best-selling Capital in the 21st Century) showing that while 90 % of the workers in the US shared 70 % of all new income between the 1930s and 1970s, things started to change in the 1980s, with the 90 % capturing essentially zero percent of all new income since then.

Funny enough, that’s around that time that the laissez faire economic policies advocated by President Reagan, and later, President Clinton’s administration, took off. Former Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin was the one who lobbied Clinton to roll back the Depression-era Glass-Steagall banking regulation that many (like Warren) believe was a key factor in the financial crisis (which, in and of itself, greatly exacerbated inequality, particularly for African American and Latino families). He and other Clinton advisors like Larry Summers also crafted changes in tax policy that allowed for the growth of stock options as the main form of corporate compensation, a trend that Piketty, Nobel laureate and former Clinton advisor Joseph Stiglitz and many other economists believe has been a reason for growing inequality. I asked Warren if she blamed such Rubinesque policies for our current wage stagnation problem. “I’d lay it right at the feet of trickle down economics, yes. We’ve tried that experiment for 35 years and it hasn’t worked.”

Which will be an interesting challenge for Hillary Clinton, the presumed Democratic front-runner for 2016, and those in her orbit to overcome. Neera Tanden, the policy director for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, now head of the left wing think tank Center for American Progress, will also be speaking at the AFL-CIO summit and, next week, CAP will be debuting a brand new report on what can be done about wage stagnation. The report was spearheaded by none other than Larry Summers. When I mention to Tanden that many people might not associate Summers with “inclusive growth,” she insists that the document is “quite progressive” and that “he’s been right there with it.” This echoes what I’ve heard from other economic insiders about Summers shift away from his historic (some might say infamous) work in financial alchemy and toward more populist concerns like worker wages.

If this conversion has in fact taken place it could be described as either Biblical, or, given current public sentiment around Wall Street, opportunistic. CAP’s report will focus on what the US can learn from other developed countries like Australia, Canada, and Sweden, which have managed to keep worker wages relatively high in the face of globalization and technological disruption. It’s worth noting that they also have much more sensibly managed financial systems than the US.

One thing that all the VIP summit participants, including AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, seem to agree on: the US is the outlier in developed economies in viewing workers as “costs” rather than “assets to be invested,” as Trumka puts it. It’s a philosophy that underscores America’s focus on the rights and profits of investors to the exclusion of everyone and everything else. It’s a mythology that will be under fire in 2016, as workers, business people, and politicians alike are beginning to question the viability of a system that encourages inequality-bolstering share buybacks rather than real economy investment, and a chase for quarterly profits over what’s best for the economy–and society—at large. On that note, Trumka will be announcing some big policy steps to put the wage issue front and center in the 2016 election conversation. “We want to establish raising wages as the key, unifying progressive value,” he says. “We want wages to be what ties all the pieces of economic and social justice together.” Sounds like a rallying cry to me.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the date of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

TIME 2016 Election

Jeb Bush Quits Board Memberships in Advance of Likely White House Run

Jeb Bush at the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Castle Rock, Colo., on Oct. 29, 2014.
Jeb Bush at the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Castle Rock, Colo., on Oct. 29, 2014 Melina Mara—The Washington Post/Getty Images

Cutting those ties could be preparation for scrutiny in a Republican primary

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has resigned all corporate and nonprofit board memberships, his office announced late Wednesday night, signaling that his preparations for a possible run at the White House in 2016 are picking up steam.

If he runs, Bush is likely to be a favorite of the GOP establishment. Divesting himself of his various nonprofit and business interests, some of which have made him quite wealthy, could be part of a strategy to shield him from criticisms similar to those leveled at Mitt Romney during his run in 2012.

Read more at The Washington Post

READ MORE: The One Issue That Will Complicate Jeb Bush’s Campaign

TIME politics

What Makes Jeb Bush the ‘Most Unusual of the Bush Kids’

John E. Bush
GOP gubernatorial candidate Jeb Bush during a campaign event on Oct. 1, 1998 Steve Liss—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

TIME profiled the politician in 1998

After months of will-he-or-won’t-he chatter, Jeb Bush has rocketed into headlines by announcing that he’s officially exploring a 2016 run for President. But Bush is no stranger to making news.

Last year TIME’s Jon Meacham considered the possibility that the run might happen, and the myth that “Jeb was the Bush son who was supposed to be President” — a myth that can be traced back to 1994, when both George W. Bush and Jeb Bush ran for governor, of Texas and Florida, respectively. The former won; the latter lost.

In 1998, when Jeb Bush ran again, things had changed. After a religious conversion and a family crisis, his new campaign was, as TIME put it in a profile of the politician, “kinder, gentler.” It worked, bringing him a victory that fall. A gubernatorial run that had been focused on compassion, education and broad appeal was a change from the more conservative style of Bush family campaigning, and that wasn’t the only thing that was different about him:

Jeb Bush has always been the most unusual of the Bush kids. Yes, he had the Greenwich pedigree and the summers in Kennebunkport. But while still in high school, he went to Mexico and came back in love with a Mexican girl named Columba. He married her, and the Bush Episcopalians, with their love of cold Maine waters, suddenly had a warm Catholic woman for a daughter-in-law. Then Jeb left Houston, the city he grew up in, and put down roots in the Latino culture of Miami, where his family had little sway. He lost his first race for Governor of Florida in 1994 by fewer than 2 percentage points, and the finish was not pretty.

Bush had been so obsessed with the campaign that he almost lost his family too. Which is why, to those watching the 45-year-old second son of the former President become the front runner in this year’s gubernatorial race, Bush seems so different, so much softer around the edges.

Read the rest of the 1998 story, free of charge, here in the TIME archives: Kinder, Gentler—And in the Lead

TIME 2016

George W. Bush: ‘50-50’ Chance Jeb Bush Will Run in 2016

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, speaks at an event at Illuminating Technologies Inc., in Greensboro, N.C. on Sept. 24, 2014.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, speaks at an event at Illuminating Technologies Inc., in Greensboro, N.C. on Sept. 24, 2014. Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call

"I'd give it a toss up," the former president said in a Sunday interview

Former President George W. Bush said the chances his brother and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush will run for president in 2016 are “50-50.”

“He’s not here knocking on my door, you know, agonizing about the decision,” he said in a Sunday Face the Nation interview. “He knows exactly — you know, the ramifications on family, for example. He’s seen his dad and his brother go through the presidency. I’d give it a toss up.”

Bush said his father and fellow former president, George H. W. Bush, taught him that the presidency is still a worthy pursuit despite those “ramifications.”

“The priorities of your life don’t have to be compromised,” he said. “I know Jeb’s priority is his family. A priority is his family. I also know it’s his country. And his deep faith. And he has seen that you don’t have to sell those out in order to be a politician.”

TIME 2014 Election

McConnell: No Shutdowns, No Full Obamacare Repeal

An exclusive interview with TIME about his plans as Majority Leader

Sen. Mitch McConnell was giddy, not an emotion often seen in the sober 72-year-old Kentuckian. But that’s the only way to describe TIME’s interview with him in Perry County, Kentucky, on Monday afternoon.

Asked to imagine it was Wednesday morning and he wakes up majority leader—a position he’s aspired to, he says, since the 5th grade—McConnell strikes a conciliatory tone, saying he hopes to work with President Obama and Senate Democrats. He said there would be no shutdowns on his watch, despite the fact that he plans to use funding bills to force changes in Obama’s policies.

MORE: See all the election results

Notably, a full repeal of Obamacare was not on his mind, but rather a partial repeal through the appropriations process. Finally, he named his new top priority: keeping the Senate in 2016 (though winning the White House is also “not unimportant”).

Below are lightly edited excerpts from the interview.

mitch.no.asterisk.indd

Top priority?

I think we need to do everything we can to get America back to work. And exactly which bill comes up first will be determined after discussing that with my colleagues and with the Speaker. Some examples of things that we’re very likely to be voting on: approving the Keystone XL pipeline, repealing the medical device tax, trying to restore the 40-hour work week, trying to get rid of the individual mandate. These are the kinds of things that I believe there is a bipartisan majority in the Senate to approve.

Also, we’re going to want to see what kind of things we might be able to agree on with the President. After all, he’s going to be there for two more years. Maybe there are things that we can agree on. I’ll give you a couple of examples where there may be areas of agreement: comprehensive tax reform and trade agreements. Most of my members think that America’s a winner in international trade. The president hasn’t sent us a single trade bill in six years. I hope he’ll do that.

Would you undo the nuclear option?

Oh, we’ll discuss that when we get back.

You realize that now you’ll have to up your face time with the President, not a man you profess to enjoy spending time with?

Well, I’m the one who’s cut the deals that we’ve had. All of them. Biden and I did the December 2010 extension of the Bush tax cuts; the August 2011 budget control act, which actually led to a reduction in government spending for two years in a row for the first time since the Korean War; and the Dec. 31 fiscal cliff deal 2012, which made 99% of the Bush tax cuts permanent and saved virtually every family farm and small business in my state from being sold by altering the Death Tax exemption. So I’m not fundamentally opposed to negotiating with the President and his team and, in fact, I’ve been the one who’s done that in the past. So, sure, he’s going to be there for two more years, so we’re going to sit down and talk to him and see what we might be able to agree on.

You didn’t mention immigration reform, will that be possible in the next two years?

We’re going to discuss that after the election.

What if the president does some sort of executive action on immigration?

Well, he’s done a lot of that sort of thing and the way that you push back on executive overreach is through the funding process. We’re going to pass a budget. We’re going to pass appropriations bills. Appropriations bills are going to have prescriptions of certain things that we think he ought not to be doing by either reducing the funding or restricting the funding.

But if you pass spending bills that he vetoes, doesn’t that lead to the possibility of a government shutdown?

Well, what happens when he vetoes an appropriations bill is you re-pass it.

Is there a possibility of a government shutdown?

No. There is no possibility of a government shutdown. Remember me? I’m the guy that gets us out of government shutdowns. (He laughs.)

MORE: The weirdest moments of Election Day 2014

You said to me once that you’d be most like George Mitchell as majority leader, do you still believe that?

Yeah, I do. The other hero of mine is Mike Mansfield. The Senate needs a lot of institutional repair. We need to get back to normal, and normal means that senators can offer amendments and actually get votes and the committees actually work. And we actually work occasionally or Fridays. There are a number of things that we need to do to become more productive. Some of it has to do with rebuilding relationships across the aisle and some of it has to do with just simply working harder.

What about building relationships within your own parties. Presidential hopefuls like [Texas Senator] Ted Cruz?

Look, we have a big party. Everybody from [Maine Senator] Susan Collins to Ted Cruz. There are lots of different points of view. Bringing them together, that’s my job and I work on it every week.

Isn’t restoring normal order risky, though, given that you have eight members up in blue states in 2016?

The first thing we need to do is be a constructive, right of center governing majority in the House and Senate.

MORE: Your guide to the 2016 GOP primary field

So, in 2016, what’s your top priority?

Well, it’ll be to keep the majority, of course.

What about winning the White House?

Well, that’s not unimportant. Obviously, winning the White House is the most important thing and I think we’re going to have a good shot at it.

Read next: The Challenge for the New Republican Majority

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