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Kaine says civility in Congress may be hard to find


RICHMOND—Sen.-elect Tim Kaine said Tuesday that his Senate orientation taught him that civility and compromise might be harder  to find in Congress than he had hoped.

Kaine was speaking to members of the business group Virginia Free at a luncheon in Richmond.

After his election last month, he went to Washington for an orientation for newly elected senators, and learned “that I had underestimated the degree of dysfunction” there, he said.

Civility and compromise were frequent subjects of Kaine’s stump speeches during the campaign. He has said he wants to be part of groups within the Senate that try to work across the aisle on issues.

He didn’t get into specifics about what he saw at orientation that dismayed him, but told reporters he had noticed a “coldness” between sitting senators as they spoke to the incoming freshmen.

“It happened often enough that I think it made an impression on all the newcomers,” Kaine said.

The other freshman senators, he said, showed a “real spirit” of wanting to find common ground.

Kaine and the other new senators won’t take office until January. In the meantime, Congress is working to get a deal on two major fiscal issues: “sequestration” budget cuts and the “fiscal cliff,” the expiration of a number of tax cuts. Both take effect in January unless Congress acts to avert them.

During the campaign, Kaine proposed what he called a compromise—letting Bush-era tax cuts expire on those earning more than $500,000 a year. Other Democrats want to end the tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 a year.

Since he’s not in office yet, Kaine said he’s “a very interested bystander and observer” right now.

But, Kaine said, he has “good intel,” and he has been told that his $500,000 idea has come up in talks in Washington.

“I am hearing from senators and members of the administration  there is some discussion going on behind the scenes,” Kaine said.

Kaine said he’s hopeful that Congress will reach some resolution on the sequestration cuts and fiscal cliff before January. He suggested it might not happen until the deadline is nearly reached.

“I know how deadlines work with legislatures.  It’s human nature,” he said.

 Chelyen Davis:  540/368-5028