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Biden Says Republicans Will Work Toward Consensus After Trump; Critics Ask if He’s Forgotten Obama Presidency

Joe Biden's Tuesday remarks that he thought Republicans would work with Democrats toward a consensus after President Donald Trump left office swiftly prompted incredulity, with commentators questioning whether the former vice president had forgotten the GOP's conduct during Barack Obama's tenure.

Bloomberg News reporter Sahil Kapur tweeted that "in New Hampshire, Joe Biden predicts that once President Trump is out of office, Republicans will have 'an epiphany' and work with Democrats toward consensus." 

The tweet about Biden's comments quickly drew derision. Journalist and activist Shaun King wrote that "Joe Biden is outrageously out of touch." Rolling Stone senior writer Jamil Smith wrote, "Joe Biden is living in Wonderland. That he is asking us to join him there is rather astonishing." Washington Post senior political reporter Aaron Blake tweeted: "Because they paid such a heavy price for obstruction from 2010-2016?"

CNN Politics reporter David Wright later released the 76-year-old's full comments. "I think there is not a middle ground. I wish I had been known as a moderate, middle guy when I was running in Delaware all those times. And you know, anyway—but I just think, there is a way—and the thing that will fundamentally change things is with Donald Trump out of the White House. Not a joke. You will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends. And it's already beginning—in the House now," Biden said. "You are seeing the talk, even the dialogue is changing. So look, let me put it another way. If we can't change, we're in trouble. This nation cannot function without generating consensus."

GettyImages-1147667220 (1) Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 on May 7. Biden’s Tuesday remarks that he thought Republicans would work with Democrats toward a consensus after President Donald Trump left office swiftly prompted incredulity. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Republicans were notoriously obstinate during Obama's time in the White House. John Boehner, who was the House Minority Leader at the time, said in 2010 Republicans would "do everything—and I mean everything we can do—to kill it, stop it, slow it down, whatever we can" regarding Obama's ACA health care reform ambitions, a signature legislative achievement.

In 2011, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also touted GOP efforts to impede Obama's agenda. "We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off of these proposals," he said. "Because we thought—correctly, I think—that the only way the American people would know that a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan."

Republicans fought fiercely to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They refused to hold a vote on Merrick Garland, Obama's Supreme Court nominee. And, among other efforts to impede Obama's agenda, they fought the president on spending priorities, only to pass legislation under Trump, like alterations to the tax code, that significantly increased the national debt. 

Responding to Biden's comments, Huffington Post polling editor Ariel Edwards-Levy posted Gallup data noting that, on average, 13 percent of Republicans approved of Obama, while 83 percent of Democrats did. On average, 8 percent of Democrats approve of Trump, while 85 percent of Republicans do. The data show a widening gap over time between approval rating provided by voters from each party.

Biden's remarks and policy statements have generated backlash from left-leaning Democrats, who consider his views too centrist.

A 2015 video, which showed the former vice president praising his predecessor by saying "I really like Dick Cheney," surfaced earlier this month, renewing criticism. More recently, some have questioned Biden's statements on climate change. Reuters reported last week that Biden was seeking a "middle ground" policy on climate change to appeal to blue-collar voters and environmentalists. The characterization prompted backlash from progressives including Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

"I've never been middle of the road on the environment," Biden said on Tuesday. "Tell her to check the statements that I made, and look at my record and she'll find that nobody has been more consistent about taking on the environment and a Green Revolution then I have."

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