By Alexander Bolton - 12-07-16 06:00 AM EST
Senate Republicans are breathing a sigh of relief that Harry Reid (Nev.) is retiring after 12 years as Democratic leader.
They feel it's going to be easier to work with his successor, New York Sen. Charles Schumer, whom they see as "pragmatic" and more of a "dealmaker."
"I've had a good working relationship with Sen. Schumer, and I hope that continues," said Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas), who worked with Schumer this Congress on legislation to allow lawsuits against state sponsors of terrorism.
"He's basically a pragmatist at heart," Cornyn added. "I think he's a very different personality than Sen. Reid."
Republicans are hoping to reach deals with Schumer next year on a massive infrastructure package and tax reform, two areas where he has worked with them in the past.
They also hope that Schumer, who represents New York's financial services industry, will be amenable to rolling back some of the regulations on Wall Street that they argue have held back the economy.
In the meantime, Republicans can't wait for Reid to reach the exits.
Cornyn described Reid's influence over the chamber as "disastrous" for bipartisan cooperation.
Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Barrasso (Wyo.) slammed Reid's record shortly before Reid delivered what was likely his final press conference on Capitol Hill.
"Democrats this week will be bidding farewell to Sen. Harry Reid, and I'm sure they will paint a rosy picture of his time here. For me, his time here has been one of failure, obstruction and gridlock," he said.
Reid told reporters he had no regrets. He said clashing with Republicans comes with the job and he is proud to have helped enact major Democratic initiatives such as the Affordable Care Act and the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
"I was never running to be popular with the Republicans," he said. "I've had a job to do with President Obama. I've done the best that I can, and I don't have any regrets whatsoever about my efforts to push forward a Democratic agenda."
Many Republicans are still fuming over Reid's decision to unilaterally change the Senate's rules in November 2013 to
prohibit them - then in the minority - from filibustering executive branch and most judicial nominees. The maneuver was dubbed the "nuclear option" because it was seen as a drastic escalation of procedural warfare.
It was one of several low points in Senate relations during Reid's career as Democratic leader.
Years later, however, Republican senators still praise Schumer for what they believe were his efforts to stop Reid from using the tactic.
Schumer worked to uphold an informal compromise that Democrats and Republicans struck during a three-and-a-half-hour meeting in the Old Senate Chamber in July 2013 that was held in a last-ditch attempt to preserve the filibuster rule, said one Senate GOP lawmaker.
"Schumer was part of stopping the nuclear option for six months," said the source. "At the meeting in the Old Chamber there were a few concessions that we gave so they wouldn't pull the trigger on the nuclear option, and Schumer was very much a part of negotiating it, but Harry never meant for the deal to stick because he wanted the confirmation of the appellate judges."
By curbing Republicans' filibuster powers, Reid was able to quickly confirm three of Obama's nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the second most powerful court in the nation.
Republicans have also bemoaned Reid's decision to pass President Obama's signature healthcare reform law with a straight party-line vote days before Christmas in 2009, only to amend it months later without any GOP support through a special budgetary process.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his colleagues have repeatedly pointed to the lack of GOP support for the healthcare law as one of the biggest reasons it was doomed to fail. Republicans plan to begin repealing the law as soon as the new Congress convenes on Jan. 3.
Relations between McConnell and Reid had broken down so badly in the run-up to Reid's triggering of the nuclear option that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who is close to McConnell and has the trust of Democratic leaders, had to serve as a go-between for the two leaders, a Republican source recalled.
Alexander on Tuesday declined to comment in detail, telling The Hill, "There may have been some of that," adding, "that was a private conversation."
But Alexander, who worked with Schumer on filibuster reform this Congress, said he hopes the change in Democratic leadership will lead to more bipartisanship.
"It creates an opportunity for a new relationship between the Democratic and Republican leader and, obviously, that relationship hasn't been good lately," he said. "I hope Sen. McConnell and Sen. Schumer will be able to work together. ... They're both smart; they're both bipartisan; they're both pragmatic."
Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) acknowledged that the relationship between Reid and McConnell had become "very difficult" over the years.
"Though they were cordial in public and on the floor, they really did not have the kind of working relationship on a day-to-day basis that most people assume," Durbin said.
"I hope that with Sen. Schumer there will be a different approach, a new day and new opportunity, but only time will tell."
Republican lawmakers acknowledged that Schumer knows how to throw partisan punches, but they think he's open to persuasion.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said Schumer earlier this year initially refused to co-sponsor his legislation combating Alzheimer's disease, which had backing from other Democrats.
Schumer told him he wouldn't sign on because Wicker was chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which was raising money and crafting attack ads to keep Democrats in the minority.
"I said, well, that didn't stop 30 Democrats from sponsoring something that could make advances in Alzheimer's, and that afternoon his [legislative director] called" and Schumer offered his support, Wicker said.