Bipartisanship Is a Two-Way Street

Congressional Republicans seem determined not to give Pres. Joe Biden support for his proposals.

By Spencer Black

On the dance floor, it takes two to tango. And in Washington, D.C., it takes two to be bipartisan. Despite President Biden’s invitation, congressional Republicans won’t dance.

Unlike Republican politicians in D.C., Americans are joining together in a national effort to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger and more prosperous. Joe Biden is uniting the country through his work to restore the economic well-being of American families and to end the devastation of the pandemic.

Mitch McConnell doesn’t seem interested in compromise.

The American Rescue Plan that he recently signed into law has united us as we bounce back from the damage to our lives caused by Trump’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis. A CBS News poll finds 83% of Americans support Biden’s plan and a Politico poll found even 60% of Republicans favored its passage. As Biden aptly said, “Unity is what we do together as fellow Americans.”

While Biden is enacting strong measures to recover from COVID-19 with the support of the vast majority of Americans, Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, are pursuing a highly partisan strategy of opposing virtually anything that Biden tries to accomplish. Not a single Republican voted for the bill, despite strong public support that includes hundreds of Republican officials at the state and local levels.

This stands in stark contrast to the bipartisan approach of Democrats when COVID-19 relief was considered when Donald Trump was president. In both March and December of 2020, virtually every congressional Democrat supported that legislation.

Now Republicans are issuing overheated press releases and tweets denouncing provisions in the law that they themselves voted for just a few months ago. And making sure that no one surpasses them in pure and unmitigated hypocrisy, they are claiming credit for provisions in the very legislation they just voted against.

We’ve seen this movie before. McConnell is a very clever and devious politician. When it comes to cynical political maneuvering, he could have taught Machiavelli a thing or two. When Barack Obama became president, McConnell instructed his Republican caucus to be against anything Obama tried to accomplish. And on the House side, the GOP conference chairman, then-Rep. Mike Pence, instructed Republicans regarding the new president: “We’re going to kick the hell out of him all the time! We’re going to go through him like crap through a goose.”

Nonetheless, Obama went to great lengths to gain bipartisan cooperation, but Republicans cynically used his good will to delay and obstruct, but never deliver. The result was months wasted in the efforts to recover from the Great Recession.

From the get go, Biden offered his hand to the Republicans, even making them the very first congressional invitees to the Oval Office shortly after he was sworn in. Despite his best effort and his wellearned reputation for honest dealing, the Republicans refused to negotiate seriously.

In the classic comic strip “Peanuts,” Lucy repeatedly baits Charlie Brown into kicking a football only to break her word and leave poor Charlie flat on his back when she pulls the ball away. Like Lucy, Republicans make fake offers of bipartisanship not to cooperate, but only to cause to unnecessary delay. Fortunately, Joe Biden refuses to play Charlie Brown to the Republican Lucy.

Biden will undoubtedly continue to seek Republican votes as well he should. He has a long record of forging compromise. Bipartisan cooperation would be welcome since under the arcane rules of the Senate; some bills need 60 votes to pass. But he is politically savvy enough not to delay taking the actions necessary for our country while Republican politicians once again pursue a partisan strategy of obstruction and delay.

Spencer Black served for 26 years in the state Legislature. He was chair of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee and the Assembly Democratic leader. Since leaving the Legislature, Black has been vice president for conservation for the national Sierra Club and adjunct professor of planning at UW-Madison. This article originally appeared in the Cap Times.

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