Yesterday Bloomberg posted a very interesting article about bipartisanship. Despite President Biden’s claim that he seeks unity, there seems to be very little unity in Washington these days. I should mention that bipartisanship is not a requirement. The Democrats control the White House and the House of Representatives and essentially the Senate. There is no requirement that they work with Republicans. However, the article points out that the Republicans are not solely responsible for the lack of bipartisanship.
The article notes:
During the Obama years, Democrats cited incidents like this one to cast Republicans in a bad light. Obama and several other Democrats also complained bitterly that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had announced at the start of his first term that his top priority was preventing a second one. Democrats said they tried again and again to meet Republicans halfway on health care, too, and were rebuffed.
The incidents didn’t actually happen, though, or at least didn’t happen the way Obama related them. Before he met with House Republicans in January 2009, House Democrats had already introduced a stimulus bill without any of their input, and Republicans had already made public statements of opposition. In his meeting with the Republicans, Obama reportedly said he was open to changing the bill; the Republicans then voted against the unchanged bill; and Boehner issued a statement saying he would still like to work with Obama on the issue.
McConnell’s remark, meanwhile, was made well into Obama’s term, right before the midterm elections of 2010. He said in the same breath that he would work with Obama if he moderated the way the previous Democratic president, Bill Clinton, had: “I don’t want the president to fail; I want him to change.”
Part of the problem right not is that we really don’t know who is making the decisions in the White House.
The article concludes:
Republicans and Democrats worked together to pass a large Covid-relief bill last spring, and did it again just a few weeks ago. The second one was passed after Biden had won the election and the Electoral College had met. Republicans knew that any positive effect it had would buoy Biden politically, and did it anyway.
There’s no moral or constitutional obligation for Democrats to bargain with the Republicans. Obama came into office with large Democratic majorities in Congress, and had the votes he needed to pass the stimulus and his health-care bill without Republicans.
Maybe they will have the votes they need in Congress this time, too. It would be nice, though, if they would stop pretending that they have no other choice.
If you are going to talk about unity, it would be nice if you did something to promote it.