If Joe Biden wins in November, much of his agenda will hinge on a potentially surprising power-player: Chris Coons.

Facing a pandemic, struggling economy and perhaps myriad other crises, the gridlock that has long gripped the Senate will instantly threaten Biden’s presidency — and Coons is uniquely positioned to step in.

The Delaware Democrat maintains almost familial ties with Biden, while also enjoying close relationships with GOP senators, with whom he’s starting to have conversations about what the Senate could look like if Biden is elected president.

With Democrats’ odds growing to win the White House and potentially the Senate, lawmakers are beginning to envision life under a Biden administration. And Coons would play a critical role in shepherding the former vice president’s legislative priorities.

“We’re going to have a real challenge being able to legislate,” Coons warned in an hourlong interview. “If we’re going to legislate durable solutions … we have to be having conversations now about what’s the path forward towards a healthier, more functional Senate.”

Coons is known for embracing the centrist, consensus-oriented politics that animate Biden, whose Senate seat he now holds. He’s hopeful that Republicans may be more willing to work with Biden than they did with President Barack Obama. But he also has no illusions about the state of the polarized Senate. And he insists Biden “is not naive.”

Unlike some of his colleagues on the left, Coons doesn’t advocate getting rid of the legislative filibuster. He once even led a letter against scrapping it. But he’s also not ruling it out.

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