Tag Archives: bipartisanship

Longing for a return of bipartisan ceremony

I cannot remember the last time I saw a president posing for pictures with politicians of both major political parties.

You remember those days, right? President Lyndon Johnson signed landmark civil rights legislation into law, and handed pens out to Republicans and Democrats gathered around him.

President Richard Nixon did the same thing with, say, creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Same with President Ronald Reagan as he signed significant tax legislation.

President Bill Clinton worked hand in glove with Republican congressional leaders to balance the federal budget and both sides sought to take credit for that noble achievement. Fine. Let ’em!

I remember the time not long after 9/11 when GOP President George W. Bush embraced Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle on the floor of the House after delivering a speech that called the nation to arms after the terror attacks.

These days, presidents are photographed only with pols of their own parties. President Barack Obama would be photographed at bill signings only with Democrats. The current president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, meets almost exclusively with Republicans and wouldn’t be caught dead sharing space with Democrats.

Legislating is a team sport. Teamwork often requires pols of both parties to work together.

We see so little of it these days, and indeed over the course of at least two presidential administrations. Republicans and Democrats have declared the other guys to be the enemy. They aren’t just mere opponents.

It’s a toxic time in Washington, D.C. It is threatening to poison the system for far longer than can possibly benefit the cause of good government.

That’s a bipartisan vote, right?

Hey, who said bipartisanship is dead on Capitol Hill?

The U.S. Senate recently voted unanimously to allow babies on to the floor of the “World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.” The vote came in response to a request from Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who just gave birth to her infant daughter.

Duckworth is on maternity leave but she wanted to cast a vote on the nomination of Jim Bridenstine as the next NASA director.

I’m glad the Senate allowed Sen. Duckworth to bring her baby with her to work. The infant “slept through the while thing,” said Duckworth.

But … here’s a possible kicker. Is this a “slippery slope” matter? I don’t know what the maximum age limit is for children coming to the Senate floor. Is there such a limit?

Perhaps they limit this “take your kid to work” matter to infants. Toddlers? Pre-schoolers?

Whatever. I remain hopeful that we might see continuing Senate collegiality on more serious matters.

Mitch is striking ‘bipartisan’ tone for new year

Can it be true? Is the Senate majority leader finding some form of “religion” on how to govern?

Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is talking about a more “bipartisan” approach to legislating in the coming year. Well now. Imagine that.

The New York Times is reporting that McConnell is going to shy away from highly partisan measures and concentrate more on issues that have broader bipartisan support. He’s going to look for more Democratic support to go along with the Republican majority that controls the flow of legislation in the U.S. Senate.

Dodd-Frank, which governs the financial industry, has bipartisan support for overhauling the law enacted in the wake of the 2008 banking crisis. McConnell said he virtually certain to push that overhaul forward.

Mitch is going bipartisan

As Politico reports, McConnell and other Republicans failed in their effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act this year. “I wish them well,” he said of efforts to continue to repeal the ACA and replace it with … something!

As an American who favors a bipartisan approach to legislating in Congress, I welcome the majority leader’s stated intention to seek another way to govern.

Now … if only Sen. McConnell can persuade the guy in the Oval Office that cooperation works far more effectively than confrontation.

Bipartisan era gone forever? Looks like it

I am thinking at this moment of an earlier era when presidents and members of Congress reached across the great partisan divide to ponder their joint legislative agendas.

The thought came to me when I heard that Donald J. Trump is going to meet this week with Republican congressional leaders to talk about upcoming projects.

No Democrats need not attend. Nope! Stay away, you folks. We don’t need you.

I’ll go back a few decades for a moment.

* Lyndon Johnson needed Republicans to help him enact landmark civil-rights legislation.

* Richard Nixon needed Democrats to run interference for his environmental agenda.

* Ronald Reagan developed a great personal and professional relationship with congressional Democrats, such as House Speaker Tip O’Neill.

* Bill Clinton relied on congressional Republicans to assist in producing a balanced federal budget.

* George W. Bush sought Democratic help in crafting education-overhaul legislation. I should add that President Bush had plenty of practice working with Democrats, as he did quite well in that regard while he governed Texas and became partners with Democrats who controlled the Legislature.

That’s when it seemed to end. Barack Obama didn’t develop many relationships with key Republicans, who — lest we forget — made clear their intention to block damn near everything the president intended to accomplish. And now we have Donald Trump seeking to push through a legislative agenda with zero Democrats in his corner.

I also recall those photo ops when presidents would sign bills in front of large bipartisan gatherings of lawmakers. He’d hand out ceremonial pens left and right. They’d all clap and slap each other on the back while extolling the virtues of working together for the common good.

Do you expect to see anything like that with the current president occupying that office in the White House?

Me neither.

Here’s what Gov. Kasich didn’t say

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 28:  Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 28, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Today is the first full session of the RNC after the start was delayed due to Tropical Storm Isaac.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Ohio Gov. John Kasich deserves the credit he sought during the Republican presidential debate for helping bring about a balanced federal budget back in the 1990s.

He spoke about his work — as chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee — in helping erase the chronic deficits that plagued the budget for previous decades.

However, Kasich left out an important element in that good work. It was that he was able — along with House Speaker (and fellow Republican) Newt Gingrich — to work with a Democratic president, Bill Clinton in crafting a budget that balanced and, in fact, produced surpluses. (Full disclosure: One of my sons brought this tidbit to my attention. So, I’m running with it in this blog.)

Oh yeah! I almost forgot. The former president is married to the Democrats’ current frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic nomination, someone against whom Kasich would face were he to win the GOP nod next summer.

Of course, any mention of bipartisanship — which is one of Kasich’s many strengths — doesn’t play well to a primary crowd starving for the red-meat rhetoric the candidates in both political parties are serving up to their respective bases.

Accordingly, Gov. Kasich wasn’t about to mention that those budget surpluses disappeared almost immediately after another Republican, George W. Bush, took office in 2001; we suffered the horrendous attack on 9/11, went to war with the terrorists — and then the government cut taxes at the same time.

I just thought it was important to add some context to what we heard on that debate stage in Cleveland.

End of bipartisan foreign policy?

Leslie Gelb never has struck me as a crazed, left-wing ideologue.

He still doesn’t, but he’s written a piece for the Daily Beast that paints an extremely grim picture of one of the consequences of the Republican Gang of 47’s letter to the Iranian mullahs.

He said The Letter well might destroy bipartisan foreign policy, the kind envisioned by politicians of both parties until, well, just the other day.


The headline over Gelb’s essay says that Republicans “hate Obama more than nuclear Iran.”

“Hate” is one of those words our parents have told us we shouldn’t use. Yes, I’ve referred on my blog to “Obama haters,” and I regret the use of that term. I’ll only refer to prior use of it here.

Gelb, though, wonders whether The Letter signals the end of bipartisan foreign policy, the kind that compels politicians to rally around the president as he tries to negotiate deals with foreign leaders, prosecute conflicts, wage campaigns against terrorists, stared down our nation’s enemies.

The Gang of 47 sees it differently. They were led by a wet-behind-the-ears freshman senator, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who drafted The Letter that advised Iran that it should consider rejecting a nuclear prohibition treaty because it could be overturned when President Obama leaves office in January 2017.

The blowback against the senators has been ferocious. Even some Republicans are trying to back away from it.

Gelb writes: “What the 47 did was not a trivial matter or ‘a tempest in a teapot,’ as Senator John McCain has described it. It could well affect possible Iranian concessions in the end game. The ayatollahs could well conclude from that letter that concessions they might have made just aren’t worth it politically, as the agreement would go nowhere anyway. They’d be taking political risks for nothing.”

This interference in a president’s negotiation with a hostile foreign government is unconscionable. Teapot tempest? Hardly.

I hope Gelb is wrong about the future of bipartisan foreign policy. I fear, though, that he’s right.


Gov. Perry sounds bipartisan note? Wow!

Why do politicians do this? They campaign for office as tough partisans, govern the same way and then, as they prepare to leave office, sound like the Great Compromiser in Chief.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry took his turn at the farewell podium this week as he said so long to the Texas Legislature. He’s leaving office, having served as governor seemingly since The Flood.

He’ll likely run for president of the United States — again! — in 2016.


But his Austin swan song, in the minds of some of who heard, sounded like a “campaign speech.”

Perry told legislators: “There is room for different voices, for disagreement … Compromise is not a dirty word if it moves Texas forward.”

Some Democrats thought the Republican governor’s speech took a surprising turn, given that he often dug in his heels at Democratic initiatives during his umpteen years in office.

One comment stands out as I read reports of his speech. It was his support of drug treatment diversion programs as an alternative to jail time for non-violent drug offenders. “We must remember when it comes to the disease of addiction, the issue is not helping bad people become good, but sick people become well,” he said. “Turning to diversion programs hasn’t made us soft on crime. It’s made us smart on crime.”

That sounds like a ringing endorsement of drug courts, such as the one started in the Panhandle by 181st District Judge John Board.

Well, the speech is over. Perry is cleaning out his office. He’s heading back onto the campaign trail soon. One of his first post-governorship stops will be in Iowa, where he’ll attend a conservative political forum hosted by TEA party Republican firebrand U.S. Rep. Steve King.

I’m guessing he won’t sound so conciliatory there.

Still, thanks for the good words, governor.


So long, D.C. bipartisanship

Perhaps you’ve noticed during the time I’ve been writing this blog that I’ve called for more bipartisanship in Washington, D.C., and in Austin.

Well, my desire to see both parties working together for a change hasn’t changed, other than it might have been intensified. I was hopeful for a more bipartisan atmosphere in Washington after the mid-term election. The president said he wanted it. The new Republican majority leader said the same thing.

We can kiss it goodbye.

President Obama is going to issue an executive order today that will enrage his Republican “friends.” It will tinker a bit with immigration policy, deferring deportation for millions of illegal immigrants, as well as strengthen border security.

I think it’s a good plan, but the incorrect strategy. I wish he would wait. And no, the president is not plowing new ground with this action. He’s doing the same kind of thing on immigration that Republican presidents dating back to Gerald Ford have done.

Still, Obama is going to stick it right back in the eyes of Republican leaders in Congress. He said he’s “waited long enough” for Congress to act. Some in D.C. are talking about impeachment, which is a ridiculous notion on its face.

But the era of even pretending to want bipartisanship in Washington appears to be over.

It’s unclear what the outcome will be for the remainder of Barack Obama’s term as president. A friend of mine, an Australian journalist with a keen interest in American politics, mentioned to me in a recent email that he predicts a miserable and torturous slog toward the end of the Obama presidency. He believes — as I do — that Republicans are feeling emboldened now that they’ve taken control of the Senate and strengthened their grip on the House.

And the president’s response to that bold new opposition? Why, he’s digging in his heels and daring them to fight.

It need not end this way — but it surely will.


Infrastructure now becomes controversial

Americans not even as old as I am can no doubt remember when infrastructure spending drew support from politicians of both parties.

It was a consensus deal. Get it done. We need those roads and bridges in tip-top shape. We drive our motor vehicles over them. We’re carrying the kids and pets in our SUVs. We’re hauling travel trailers across the country.

Hey, these are our public roads and highways and we need to spend public money to keep them maintained.

Remember those days?

They’re gone.


President Obama wants to spend money to fix our roads, bridges and highways. They’ll create thousands of jobs. And, yes, they’ll make our roadways safer for Mom, Dad and the Kids.

To no one’s surprise these days, Congress is digging in on that one, too.

Obama spoke the other day at a bridge that needs repair. He’s asking Congress to reauthorize money for an infrastructure trust fund that’s about to run dry. Congress isn’t moving on it. Imagine that.

The House of Representatives, where these spending initiatives begin, is run by Republicans who are angry with the Democratic president because of his taunts over his executive action. “So sue me,” Obama said the other day when he mentioned employing the executive authority he possesses.

The notion of spending money to keep the country moving safely is supposed to be a bipartisan effort. Sadly, nothing of substance enjoys bipartisan support. Who’s to blame? Republicans blame Obama; the president blames them.

The system is broken, ladies and gentlemen. Meanwhile, our bridges and highways are crumbling beneath us.

Repair our infrastructure before someone gets hurt.

What? Cruz, Cornyn and Obama on same side?

I believe hell has just frozen over.

U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, two stalwart Texas Republicans, have locked arms with the Democratic president of the United States, Barack Obama, in support of a student loan bill that rolls back a plan to double interest rates for students who have to pay back their college loans.

I’m pinching myself. I’m still here, yes?


The bill sailed through the Senate with an 81-18 vote. Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee was the lone GOP vote against it; Democrat Claire McCaskill of Missouri did not vote.

And get a load of this: The Republican-controlled House of Representatives is expected to approve the legislation in about a month, enabling the president to sign quickly into law.

The bill essentially ties student loan interest rates to the market, which effectively kills the plan that would have doubled the interest rates students would be charged. The effect of that would have a serious impact on non-scholarship students’ ability to pay for college.

We all want our young people to get as much education as possible, yes?

As the San Antonio Express-News reported, the bill would have an impact on approximately 650,000 Texas college students.

I’m glad — no, delighted — to see this demonstration of bipartisanship, especially when it involves two fire-breathing Republican senators from Texas.

I do not, though, expect it continue. Politics is politics, you know, and that means the two sides are going to look for reasons to sink their teeth into each other’s throat.