Don’t be fooled by partisan brawls. America’s government works well even through rancor and political gamesmanship. In just the past two months, when the U.S. Congress seemed dysfunctional amid bitter fights over the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice, it passed major measures with huge bipartisan support. (See story below.)
Whenever there is a big political fight in the U.S., many people start calling the system “dysfunctional.” Since extreme views on either side of an issue rarely win in the end, partisans allege the system is undemocratic or unrepresentative. They even start pushing for changes in the Constitution.
This myth that the U.S. government becomes paralyzed (caused by the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches) has been debunked many times. The best proof is the country’s success over the past two centuries.
Historical studies have also proven that American governments work well even amid angry fights. Yale political scientist David Mayhew showed in 1991 that over a 45-year period, various U.S. governments passed “landmark acts about as frequently per year in Divided as in Unified times.” (See Divided We Govern by David Mayhew.)
[Excerpts of a recent article published by Foxnews.com…]
Amid Kavanaugh cacophony, Congress forges bipartisan agreements on key issues
By Chad Pergram
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., fretted that “tribalism” was on the rise in American politics and “is ruining us.”
“I’m so tempted to use the ‘l’ word,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, on the floor when describing the tactics of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “But he’s my friend.”
Schumer instead tempered the aspersion directed at his Senate counterpart as a “blatant falsehood.”
“Boy, ya’ll want power!” spat Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., across the dais at Democrats at the second confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.. “God, I hope you never get it.”
After delivering his closing floor speech in opposition to Kavanaugh, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., lamented that the Senate has “hit rock bottom.”
Angst and enmity often consume Capitol Hill when big issues split the sides. The rise of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and the 1994 Republican takeover of the House. Multiple government shutdowns. The impeachment of President Clinton. The Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq War. The skirmish to approve ObamaCare. A monumental 2011 fight over the debt ceiling. The 2013 government shutdown over repealing ObamaCare. And now, Kavanaugh.
The rancor spilled over the Kavanaugh confirmation ranks right up there with some of the most intense imbroglios in Washington over the past quarter century. You know it’s tense in Congress when the workers who operate the trolleys which shuttle people back and forth from the Russell Senate Office Building and the Capitol start browbeating aides and journalists.
Congress is a hemorrhaging gash right now, bleeding odium and hostility….. Or…. Is it?
Step back from the Kavanaugh cacophony. Examine what lawmakers from both parties in both chambers accomplished in September and early October, with virtually zero fanfare.
Amid the turmoil, Congress approved the first revamp of national aviation policy in years. The Senate approved the final version of the legislation 93-6. This came after a staggering six extensions due to bickering and disagreement.
Then, Congress approved a sweeping, bipartisan measure to combat opioid abuse. The House okayed the package 393-8. The Senate adopted the measure 98-1.
And, there was no government shutdown. The House and Senate came to terms on two bipartisan bills which funded five of the 12 annual spending bills which operate the government. The sides agreed to latch an additional measure to one of the spending plans to fund the remaining seven areas of federal spending through December 7. President Trump briefly threatened to force a government shutdown if lawmakers didn’t include money for his border wall in the plan. But the President ultimately punted that battle until December. Democrats praised Republicans for keeping conservative “poison pill” riders out of the appropriations bills. That decision drew Democratic support for the measures.
The Senate approved a bipartisan water and infrastructure package.
McConnell hailed the bipartisanship which descended upon the Senate – even as the senators fought over Kavanaugh. Nearly in the same breath, McConnell derided boisterous, anti-Kavanaugh protesters outside the Capitol as a “mob.”
McConnell insisted this week he needed the Senate to clear a slate of 15 conservative judges to lower courts before he could cut senators loose for the midterm elections. McConnell and Schumer appeared at loggerheads. McConnell’s goal was clear: extract the confirmation of these nominees – or tether to Washington vulnerable Democratic senators from battleground states to keep them off the campaign trail.
Schumer knew McConnell would ultimately prevail on the nominees after the midterms. So the New York Democrat accepted McConnell’s ransom, permitting the Senate vote on a slate of nominees on Thursday night. Schumer also extracted a concession from McConnell: send senators home until November 13th.
One may wonder how lawmakers can find themselves in an imbroglio over a major issue like Kavanaugh – yet forge major bipartisan accords on other. Frankly, that’s just politics. Politics always elicits strange bedfellows. Successful lawmakers know they should compartmentalize their disputes. The enemy today may be your best ally tomorrow.
That said, donnybrooks lie ahead. Consider the delay on the border wall. In a speech to the National Press Club, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., warned that the GOP would go to the mat during the lame duck Congress.
“We will have a fight over that,” said Ryan when asked about the wall. “We intend to have a full-fledged discussion on how to complete the mission at the border.”
Such a scenario could spark a government shutdown just before Christmas.
That may be. But the reality for Republicans and Democrats is that they need to work together to keep the government open – even if their policy priorities differ.
Lawmakers may not always get along. They may not always reach bipartisan common ground on big issues. Senate decorum may falter. Yet Murkowski’s gesture of appreciation to Wilson might reveal something below the surface. Perhaps everything on Capitol Hill hasn’t completely devolved. Yet.
This article was first published on Fox News on 14 Sep. 2018