Tag Archives: bipartisanship

Waiting for bipartisan thaw

My patience has its limits, but I am going to give it some more time to bear fruit.

I had hoped that the election of Joe Biden as president of the United States would produce a spirit of bipartisanship we hadn’t seen since, oh, about the time of 9/11. It hasn’t happened.

President Bush handed the office over to President Obama in 2009 and the divisions persisted after the Iraq War dragged on and on. President Obama didn’t make much headway, either, particularly after Sen. Mitch McConnell — the Republican leader — said his No. 1 priority was to make Obama a “one-term president.” President Obama finished his second term in 2017 and handed it off to, umm, the 45th POTUS. It got even worse during the Liar/Numskull/Nitwit/Insurrectionist in Chief’s single term in office.

He vacated the White House earlier this year without so much as a goodbye wave at President Biden’s inaugural. He skulked off without attending his successor’s inauguration.

Biden brought 36 years of U.S. Senate experience and eight years as vice president to the White House. He knows how to play the bipartisan game. He did it with considerable flair during his Senate years.

Alas, all that experience hasn’t played well in the GOP, which has latched onto the Big Lie about phony election theft and vote fraud.

For crying out loud, we cannot even cross the partisan divide on the best way to rid us of a killer virus that has cost us more than 600,000 lives! Biden and his fellow Democrats sing the virtues of masks and vaccines while Republicans and assorted conspiracy lunatics denigrate mask-wearing and question the value of getting vaccinated. Sheesh!

I am going to wish that President Biden can find a way to cross the partisan divide. My hope and my expectation, though, are growing farther apart.


Bring on the differences!

I am striking a note or two for ideological diversity.

We live in a polarized, deeply divided nation these days. The polarization is being driven by politicians in Washington, in our state capitals, even at our county courthouses; I’ll give our city halls a pass because almost all of them are non-partisan in nature and the pols we elect to municipal government are ostensibly not driven by partisan political concerns.

I have my bias. Others have theirs. They differ. The folks who hold differing biases are getting pretty darn nasty.

However, all that acknowledged, I do not want everyone to agree with me. I surely don’t want everyone to agree with those who disagree with me. Back to my point about personal agreement. We should live in a nation full of ideological diversity and at the moment, oh brother, we are, um … diversified.

A world where everyone thinks the same — even if they agree with little ol’ me — would be a boring world for certain.

Who wants to be bored to sleep? Not me. I have too much to do!


‘Sausage making’ continues

REUTERS/Mike Blake

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Someone once said that crafting legislation is similar to making sausage, in that neither activity is attractive to watch as it takes place.

I will spare you the nuts and guts of sausage making. However, the infrastructure bill that is slogging its way through the U.S. Congress is another matter.

It is taking seemingly forever for congressional Democrats and Republicans to work through their differences. President Biden is waiting for some form of legislation to arrive at his desk. I will presume he’ll sign what Congress delivers to him.

But … man! This is getting painful to watch.

Senate negotiators are hammering out a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that aims to repair our roads, bridges and rail lines; it also will provide greater broadband Internet service. The legislation also figures to put millions of Americans to work, even though quite a few million of us are returning to the work force as the nation fights mightily to rid itself of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is a bipartisan effort, with pols on both sides of the great divide finding ways to compromise. That’s what I call “good government.”

Some progressive politicians want to spend more money; some arch-conservative pols don’t want to spend any money on anything.

Government needs to step up. It needs to find ways to assist Americans struggling to pay their household bills. The infrastructure bill, with all its complexities, figures to lend a much-needed hand. Not to mention that it will repair crumbling roads, bridges and rail lines. We need ’em all to get from place to place … you know?

The only thing is that it ain’t pretty to watch taking shape.

POTUS walks back a demand

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President Biden had me, then he lost me. Then he got me back again.

Biden and a bipartisan group of U.S. senators hammered out a deal on an infrastructure plan. They marched out in front of reporters at the White House and declared “We have a deal.”

Then the president said this: “I expect that in the coming months this summer, before the fiscal year is over, that we will have voted on this bill, the infrastructure bill, as well as voted on the budget resolution. But if only one comes to me, this is the only one that comes to me, I’m not signing it. It’s in tandem.”

As the saying goes: Oops!

GOP senators accept Biden walk-back on infrastructure | TheHill

Biden signaled right then that he wanted a more expensive and expansive infrastructure deal that only Democrats could approve. He drew complaints from Republicans and from Democratic moderates who worked their tails off trying to hammer out this deal.

Then the president in effect took back what he said.

To which I say that’s a good thing for the cause of good government.

President Biden should take the deal worked out. It’s not as much as he and many others want to spend but, hey, a trillion dollars-plus is still a lot of dough.

As for Biden’s walk-back, his change of tune has satisfied at least two members of the GOP negotiating team — Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Rob Portman of Ohio. They both said they “trust” the president and are going to work to ensure that the infrastructure deal upon which they agreed gets through Congress and lands on Biden’s desk.

Americans want their bridges, highways and rail lines to be safe for human activity. They want their seaports and airports to be modernized and made safe for travel. The Internet has become an increasing part of Americans’ lives and they want high-speed Internet service. The infrastructure deal is widely popular among Americans.

The deal worked out by members of both major parties signals the kind of cooperation, camaraderie and common good the president said once was a hallmark of his days as a senator and even as vice president.

He should take this deal all by itself. As for the rest of it, fight that fight another day.

Bipartisan chops serve Biden well

Jeff Flake once served in the U.S. Senate. He is a Republican and reportedly a self-proclaimed proud “conservative” Republican at that.

He is going to support Democrat Joe Biden’s bid to become president of the United States.

Former Sen. Flake is not alone among Republicans who are backing the former vice president in his bid to unseat Donald Trump from the White House.

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a former House member, spoke at the Democratic National Convention. So did former GOP Rep. Susan Molinari and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. They all are principled Republicans who believe that the president is unfit for office. They want him defeated.

It’s a bit of overstatement to declare that Joe Biden is uniquely qualified by virtue of his many friends on the Republican side of the chasm that splits the parties. Other politicians have been able to reach across the aisle when the need arose. Presidents Bush 41 and 43 did so, as did President Clinton, President Johnson and President Reagan. President Obama had limited success in that regard, but he did have Vice President Biden at his side to pave the way on occasion.

I mention this because it appears to me that Biden well might be able to harvest a good bit of GOP support as he continues his campaign against Donald Trump. We all have noticed occasional cracks in the GOP armor, with Sen. Mitt Romney being openly critical of Trump, as have Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Of course we cannot know how they will vote when the time comes. The Constitution allows Americans to vote in secret. Indeed, I often find it intrusive even to ask a politician how they intend to vote. These decisions ought to be intensely personal.

I remain committed to the notion that good government requires bipartisan compromise and the constant search for common ground. Joe Biden’s lengthy public service career is full of examples of how he has sought commonality with politicians with whom he disagrees. Such a record would serve him — and the nation — well if he becomes president of the United States.

Joe Biden’s bipartisan street cred is beyond dispute, which makes him — among many reasons too numerous to count — preferable to the incumbent in this presidential election.

Why the squabble over GOP support?

I hear that some Democrats are miffed because their virtual presidential nominating committee includes testimonials for Joe Biden from, get ready for it, Republicans.

My answer: Get used to it.

The presumed Democratic presidential nominee is known as a bipartisan kind of guy. He worked across the aisle during his 36 years as a U.S. senator from Delaware. As vice president, he did the same thing, working with Republican legislators on critical fiscal matters.

That the Democratic presidential nominee would welcome the endorsement of Republicans is no surprise. One of his best friends in the Senate was the late John McCain, the Republican Vietnam War hero. McCain was no fan of Donald Trump. The late senator’s wife, Cindy, is going to line up behind her friend Joe Biden’s candidacy.

So has former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former EPA administrator and New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, former U.S. Rep. Susan Molinari and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Democrats who are grumbling about the infusion of Republicans standing up for the Democratic nominee need to get over themselves.

Their party is on the verge of nominating someone who knows the value of compromise and who uses that concept to further the cause of good government legislation.

The nation needs more of the bipartisan spirit that Joe Biden seeks to bring to the office of president of the United States.

Why the partisan divide over this pandemic?

I am forced to ask: Why in the name of medical prudence does it seem to me that there is a partisan divide between governors’ responses to the coronavirus pandemic?

How is this playing out so far? Most of our 50 states have declared statewide “stay at home” or “shelter in place” mandates. They have been led more or less by Democrats who run those states. The remaining handful of states that haven’t yet issued those declarations all are being governed by Republicans.

What is going on here?

Donald Trump calls for an end to partisanship. He declares his desire to unify the country. Then he does something quite extraordinary.

When the bill that provided $2.2 trillion in economic aid to Americans reached his desk, he didn’t invite a single Democratic member of Congress to witness his bill-signing; the entire congressional delegation gathered in the Oval Office comprised Republicans who, I should add, were not observing “social distancing” practices while watching Trump sign the bill into law.

Here in Texas, GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has yet to issue a “stay at home” ruling, although what is happening here is that we are observing a de facto stay at home order. This appears to me to be a function of Republican politicians adhering to the nation’s top GOP politician’s reluctance to be more proactive in his battle against the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, gubernatorial Democrats across the nation are mobilizing their own forces and resources to fight this “war” against an “invisible enemy.” Their reaction appears to be an effort to stick it in Trump’s eye, to enact policies at a statewide level that the president refuses to do at a national level.

A “wartime president” speaks to an entire nation. He unifies us by appealing to our common mission against an enemy of our state. He does not attack politicians from the other party or the media that seek to report on the progress of the government’s mission.

It is my humble view that Donald Trump has overseen an incompetent response to the pandemic. He has delivered messages steeped in confusion and contradiction. He has undermined his own health experts. Trump has denied saying what he entire world heard him say, which is that the pandemic is a “Democrat hoax.”

The nation is full of competent, intelligent and serious Republican governors. Why in the world do they keep standing behind this president, whose categorical incompetence is putting Americans’ lives in danger?

Why not invite Democrats to that bill-signing, Mr. President?

Donald John “The So-Called Unifier in Chief” Trump signed an important bill into law today.

It was the coronavirus pandemic emergency response bill approved by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both chambers of Congress. The Senate approved it 96-0; the House approved it by a voice vote, thanks to some procedural maneuvering orchestrated by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But …

Pelosi or other Democrats were nowhere to be found in the Oval Office today as Trump signed the bill into law.

Hasn’t he promised to unify the country? Hasn’t he pledged to work with Democrats as well as Republicans to “make America great again”? I believe the fate of this bill, which Trump supported after at first opposing it (while blaming Democrats, naturally, for wanting to load it up with unnecessary provisions) depended on Democrats as well as Republicans.

Oh, but of course Trump is still enraged at Pelosi because the House speaker engineered the impeachment of the president. That’s his rationale, although he hasn’t said it directly.

This individual’s petulance makes me sick.

McConnell sets no bipartisan example

Yeah, this Twitter message from a former U.S. senator — who once wrote jokes for a living — sums it up for me.

The Senate majority leader is lamenting the absence of a quality about which he seems to know next to nothing. Mitch McConnell is angry about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to withhold the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump. He says House Democrats rushed to judgment against the president while impeaching him; then he says he won’t allow any witnesses to testify in the upcoming Senate trial that will determine whether Trump stays in office.

I don’t know whether to laugh or … laugh even more loudly.

McConnell is infamous for the partisan hit job he performed on President Barack Obama after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly in February 2016. Obama wanted to nominate someone to the SCOTUS to succeed Scalia. McConnell slammed the door shut, saying that the president shouldn’t appoint a justice in an election year that would determine who the next president would be.

Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the SCOTUS. McConnell denied Garland a hearing. It was a major-league partisan power play. It worked for McConnell, given that Donald Trump won the 2016 election.

Of course, McConnell has kept up his partisan wrangling during the impeachment saga, declaring that he intends to take his cue from Trump’s legal team and that he is “not an impartial juror.”

So, for the majority leader to gripe about Democrats’ alleged partisanship now is as Al Franken has described it.


Friendships honored along with a political icon

They buried a political icon today. I hope they did not bury the spirit of bipartisan friendships that this iconic figure embodied.

Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democratic member of Congress, died the other day of myriad medical complications. He served as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and became a leader in the debate over whether to impeach Donald J. Trump.

Cummings was a champion in the first degree. He fought for civil rights and also fought for civil political discourse.

As I listened to the tributes that poured in from across the political spectrum, I was struck by how much attention was paid to the honors paid by Republicans who served with Chairman Cummings. Given the nastiness that has poisoned the atmosphere in Washington over the course of time, it is instructive that so many Republicans would hail their personal affection and professional respect for this fierce Democratic politician.

One of them is Mark Meadows, a North Carolina GOP leader in the U.S. House Freedom Caucus. He is a fierce conservative. Yet he and Cummings were proud of their friendship. Meadows spoke of his love for his colleague while Cummings was lying in state on Capitol Hill — the first African-American politician to be accorded that honor. Former U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina wrote a moving op-ed for the Washington Post that spoke of the Republican’s affection and respect for Cummings.

Indeed, the ranks of strange political bedfellows is long. Former U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a conservative Utah Republican, and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, a liberal Massachusetts Democrat, were famous for their friendship. Yes, there are many such relationships. Yet they flourish outside of the public eye.

When a politician of Cummings’ stature passes from the scene, it enables the nation to witness how these supposedly unlikely friendships have flourished even in the climate that can destroy them.

Elijah Cummings’ death saddens me. I am heartened, though, to see these exhibitions of love and respect that are coming from those with whom this good man had many fierce political battles.

It gives me a glimmer of hope that collegiality and political comity isn’t dead.