Maryland's incoming, outgoing and continuing Democratic U.S. senators expressed a cautious willingness to work with President-elect Donald Trump Wednesday amid deep worries about where he will lead the country.
Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Ben Cardin met with Sen.-elect Chris Van Hollen at Jimmy's Restaurant in Fells Point before holding a news conference in the retiring Mikulski's office two blocks away.
While the three Democrats put on a celebratory face in welcoming Van Hollen to the Senate, there was no hiding the trepidation they were feeling after the stunning outcome of Tuesday's presidential election. Not only did Trump, a Republican, defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton, but Democrats' failure to win a Senate majority ensures Cardin and Van Hollen will remain in the minority for at least two years.
"I'm very disappointed and concerned about the national election," Cardin said. "A lot of things were said during the campaign that gave us great concern."
Asked whether she respected Trump, Mikulski sidestepped.
"I respect the process," she said.
Mikulski, 80, appeared happier as she symbolically passed the "torch" — actually a toy Star Wars lightsaber — to Van Hollen. The congressman from Montgomery County was easily elected over Republican Del. Kathy Szeliga to succeed Mikulski after she ends her 30-year Senate career in January.
"I'm so proud of Chris Van Hollen," Mikulski said. "I have confidence that he will champion all the people of Maryland."
Van Hollen, 57, praised Mikulski's record and moved quickly to assure Baltimoreans that he will be a fierce advocate for the city's needs.
"This is a great city. We know we've got a lot of work to do to make it greater," he said. "This is a time we need to come together and focus on jobs, wages and all the other things that bring us together as Americans."
Van Hollen said it's up to Trump to take steps to unify the country.
"I do believe that Donald Trump ran an incredibly divisive campaign, and it's going to be essential that he reach out in word and deed," he said.
Van Hollen and Cardin said they believe there's potential to reach accord with Trump on infrastructure — particularly Maryland's need to rebuild the Howard Street Tunnel through Baltimore. That project is a top priority of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who pointedly withheld his support from Trump.
Cardin, 73, was asked whether Hogan's stance and Maryland's strong vote for Clinton could affect the state's effort to bring the new headquarters of the FBI to Prince George's County. A decision whether to locate the giant facility in Maryland or Virginia was recently postponed until next year.
The senator pointed out that Virginia has a Democratic governor and said Maryland should still win the headquarters on the merits.
"I'm very optimistic about the FBI," Cardin said. "We have the best location."
Mikulski noted that she and Cardin will soon return to the Senate, and Van Hollen to the House, for a lame duck session of Congress. She expressed hope that lawmakers can make progress on some issues and expressed a hope — almost certainly forlorn — that the Senate would act on President Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
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"We need to respect each other," she said. "We need to listen."
Cardin expressed the hope that Republican and Democrats can work together.
"We need to compromise. It's not a dirty word," he said.
It is far from clear how much compromising Trump will have to do to get his agenda through Congress. Republicans will control at least 51 seats in the 100-member Senate, and the GOP retained control of the House by a comfortable margin.
The Maryland congressional delegation will consist of two Democratic senators. The House delegation remains split 7-1 Democratic. The senators welcomed two new House Democrats elected Tuesday — former Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and state Sen. Jamie Raskin. Both will represent the Washington suburbs.