Tag Archives: bipartisanship

It’s all about ‘compromise,’ Mr. President; sign the deal

I could swear on a stack of Bibles I heard Donald Trump say the word “compromise” during his State of the Union speech the other evening.

He mentioned it as one of the benchmarks he said he seeks to set as he and Congress look for ways to govern the United States of America.

So, we have a deal to avert a partial government shutdown. The deal contains some money for The Wall, but not the $5.7 billion Trump wanted. It contains some other perks and expenditures to stiffen security along our border.

Trump returned from his campaign rally in El Paso and said he is unhappy with what a bipartisan group of senators and House members cobbled together. He said he needed time to — cough, cough! — “study” the deal that has found its way to the White House.

Effective legislating almost always requires compromise, which means no one gets what they want fully. You have to give a little here and little there and then you come up with something that is mutually acceptable.

I believe that’s what we have in this deal. I wouldn’t consider it perfect, either.

However, it moves us along and gives everyone ample breathing room to consider longer-term repairs to whatever the hell it is that troubles them.

Sign the damn deal, Mr. President! You pledged to work toward a system of government that includes “compromise.” Here’s your chance to prove — for once! — that you’re a man of your word.

Where is the Texas Senate’s wise man?

I don’t know where he is at this very moment, but I cannot stop thinking about Bill Ratliff as I read about the tension building between two key players in the Texas Senate.

Ratliff served as lieutenant governor in the early 2000s. He was elevated to that post by his fellow state senators after Lt. Gov. Rick Perry moved into the governor’s office after the 2000 election of George W. Bush as president of the United States.

Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant in East Texas, was generally a revered political figure in the Texas Capitol. He enjoyed tremendous bipartisan support. Why is that? Because he didn’t govern with a heavy hand.

Ratliff must be grinding his teeth as he follows this stuff.

Oh, man. The mood in Austin is a whole lot different these days. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick not only has pi**** off his Democratic colleagues, he’s managing to antagonize his fellow Republicans. One of them is a fellow I’ve known quite well for more than two decades, Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo.

Patrick is telling the rest of the GOP Senate caucus the following messages: Do it my way . . . or else! The “or else” in Seliger’s case arrived when Patrick took away the chairmanship of the Higher Education Committee and removed Seliger from the Education and Finance committees. Patrick then threw Seliger a bone when he named him chair of the newly formed Agriculture Committee, a post that Seliger reportedly didn’t thrill him.

A Patrick aide said that if Seliger believed the Ag post was “beneath him” he could ask to be withdrawn and Patrick could appoint someone else. Seliger then told a Lubbock radio host — in so many words — that the aide could kiss his “rear end.”

Patrick then responded to that by yanking Seliger out of the Agriculture panel’s chairmanship post.

Imagine any of this occurring with Bill Ratliff as the Man of the Senate. I cannot wrap my head around that.

To be clear, I do not know Ratliff. I only know of him. Just as I don’t know Patrick, either, but I certainly know of this guy.

Patrick is playing hardball. He is using his considerable power to punish one of the Senate’s more senior members because the two of them don’t view the world through the same ideological prism.

Here is how theĀ Texas Tribune sees this saga.

The Texas Senate used to have a tradition of bipartisanship. The lieutenant governor used to govern with an eye toward enlisting support from the minority party’s senators. To think that a lieutenant governor — whether Democrat or Republican — would punish a member of his own caucus has been a heretofore unthinkable occurrence.

I wish we could find another Bill Ratliff out there somewhere. They didn’t call him “Obi-Wan Kenobie,” the wise man from “Star Wars,” for nothing.

McConnell now seeks ‘bipartanship’?

Mitch McConnell’s lack of self-awareness takes my breath away.

The U.S. Senate majority leader has penned an op-ed in the Washington Post that demands that congressional Democrats “work with us” instead of putting “partisan politics ahead of country.”

Interesting, yes? You bet it is!

Let’s review part of the record for just a brief moment.

  • McConnell once declared his intention to make Barack H. Obama a “one-term president.” In fact, he said it would be his No. 1 priority while leading the Senate Republican caucus.
  • He has remained shamefully silent about Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
  • This is my favorite: McConnell said that he would not allow President Obama to nominate anyone to replace the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He made that proclamation mere hours after Justice Scalia died in Texas. Obama nominated Merrick Garland to succeed Scalia, but McConnell would not allow even a hearing to examine Garland’s exemplary judicial credentials. Obama was in the final full year of the presidency and McConnell gambled — successfully, it turned out — on the hope that a Republican would win the 2016 presidential election.

This Senate Republican leader now accuses Democrats of “playing politics” over The Wall and causing the partial shutdown of the federal government.

Astonishing. I need to catch my breath.

That didn’t hurt so much, right, senators?

Eighty-seven to 12.

That was the vote on a measure backed by Donald John Trump to overhaul the federal criminal justice sentencing system. It passed through the U.S. Senate with tremendous bipartisan support.

I trust it didn’t hurt senators who decided to side with the president on this one.

It is a solid piece of legislation that I trust will win House support this week and will go to the president’s desk for his signature.

It has drawn support from across the political spectrum. The American Civil Liberties Union likes it along with many conservative organizations.

My favorite element in the bill is the relaxing of federal sentencing guidelines. Current law requires federal judges to impose mandatory sentences even on those convicted of non-violent drug offenses. The overhaul gives federal judges the flexibility that is granted their colleagues in state judicial systems across the nation.

The president is right to push this legislation through. Those who joined him are showing some much-needed compromise and a bipartisan spirit that has been lacking in Congress dating back for many years preceding Trump’s time as president.

The 12 “no” votes, by the way, came from Senate Republicans who stuck by the same tired old system that too often sends people to prison who really don’t deserve to be there.

Here’s hoping for full enactment of this reform.

McConnell wants what? Bipartisanship? For real?

I gave myself one of those proverbial forehead slaps when I heard this tidbit: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants there to be more “bipartisanship” in the next Congress.

Huh? He said what? This comes in the form of an op-ed column from the obstructionist in chief on Capitol Hill?

It took my breath away.

This is the fellow who said in 2010: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Uh, huh. He said that. The 2012 presidential election, of course, dashed Leader McConnell’s dream. President Obama won re-election.

Then came the congressional Republican caucuses singular effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They staged countless votes in the Senate and the House. They came up short. Who led the charge? Mitch did, that’s who.

And then we had the obstruction to end all obstructions in early 2016. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative icon on the court, died suddenly in Texas. Justice Scalia’s body had barely gotten cold when McConnell declared that President Obama would not get the chance to replace him.

Oh sure, the president can nominate someone, McConnell said, but Republicans were not going to move the nomination forward. Obama nominated federal Judge Merrick Garland — a supremely qualified man — only to watch his nomination wither and die. We had a presidential election to conclude and McConnell banked on the hope that a Republican would be elected. His gamble paid off with Donald Trump’s election.

Now the majority leader wants a more bipartisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill.

Pardon me while I bust out laughing.

The next Congress will be split. Democrats will control the House; Republicans will lead the Senate. Bipartisanship certainly is the preferred way to govern.

That such a call would come from the U.S. Senate’s leading obstructionist gives “gall” a bad name.

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 spokeĀ 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.