The Republican bipartisanship gambit

Barack Obama spoke about the need for bipartisanship when he came into office in 2008 and the Republicans used that desire to thwart his election platform goals though Democrats had big majorities in both houses of Congress. Or at least that is the conventional wisdom. I was more cynical. I think he and Democrats used that bipartisanship ploy to escape having to follow through on their promises.

That scenario is being played out again. Joe Biden also made a big song-and-dance about wanting bipartisanship and now Republicans are whining that they need to be part of any policy decisions, although they and Trump gleefully rammed through their massive tax cuts for the rich and other moves while thumbing their noses at the Democrats. Ten Republican senators have demanded, in the name of bipartisanship, that Biden take seriously their ridiculously low offer of a $600 billion stimulus package which is much less than the $1.9 trillion that Biden has proposed. As part of their bipartisanship gambit, Republicans are now also shedding copious crocodile tears over the deficit, the very thing they cavalierly dismissed when their tax cuts for the rich sent it skyrocketing.

This is a basic question of understanding what is the goal and what are the means. The goal should be to solve the urgent problems of the country and ease the pain of so many people while bipartisanship should be viewed as the means of doing so. What Republicans are trying to say is that bipartisanship is itself the goal and sacrificing the needs of people is the means to getting that meaningless goal. They are aided by the beltway media and insider class who have elevated bipartisanship to almost a religious belief because they know that they will dominate that process and eliminate action that benefits those who are not part of the ruling classes. The question is whether Biden will go the Obama route or whether the pressure from progressives will prevent him from doing so.

Seth Meyers takes a closer look at the bogus calls for bipartisanship.


  1. Matt G says

    It’s time to play hardball, Democrats. You can’t play nice with people who are categorically opposed to compromise.

  2. Numenaster, whose eyes are up here says

    I gotta say, I’m encouraged by the administration’s positioning every time one of these stories comes up. Because each time it’s been “We’re happy to work with anyone interested in meeting the nation’s urgent needs” and not “We’re glad to see this return to bipartisanship and hope for great things in the future.”

    IOW, the administration is clearly focusing on the needs and not being drawn off message.

  3. says

    I tweeted about it today, but I don’t know anyone else on American broadcast television who regularly calls out not just Republicans but the conservative movement like Seth Meyers does.

  4. consciousness razor says

    Ten Republican senators have demanded, in the name of bipartisanship, that Biden take seriously their ridiculously low offer of a $600 billion stimulus package which is much less than the $1.9 trillion that Biden has proposed.

    The totals there don’t really make it clear how completely inadequate it is, even next to the upsetting-but-better-than-nothing proposal by the Dems. This graphic from the Washington Post breaks it down into several categories:

    — State/local governments: $0, instead of $350B = 0%
    — Child tax credit: $0, instead of $120B = 0%
    — Rental assistance: $0, instead of $35B = 0%
    — Schools reopening: $20B, instead of $170B = 11.8%
    — Unemployment insurance: $132B, instead of $350B = 37.7%
    — Direct payments: $220B, instead of $465B = 47.3%
    — Child care: $20B, instead of $40B = 50%
    — Small businesses: $50B, same as the Dems = 100%
    — “Direct pandemic response”: $160B, same as the Dems = 100%

    That’s what their “bipartisan compromises” are like.

    This is how much time they should spend negotiating on this: 0 minutes.

  5. mikey says

    Also they want to delete the minimum wage increase, which adds $0 to the cost of the relief package. Never forget that the cruelty *is* the point.

  6. Rob Grigjanis says

    mikey @5: So much conservative “policy” is a vicious circle of absurdity and cruelty.

    School lunch programmes should be cancelled to encourage people to work -- at jobs that don’t pay enough to put food on the table.

    Policies that could help people, save money, and reduce government bureaucracy (housing the homeless, universal basic income, universal health care) will never be accepted because “handouts” should only go to those who don’t need them.

    If “not for profit” means saving lives (see long term care), well, that’s unacceptable. Because “freedom”. Freedom for a handful of sociopaths to become wealthy while multitudes die in squalor and filth, that is.

    If the pandemic hasn’t convinced most people that conservatives aren’t fit to govern, I don’t know what will.

  7. Matt G says

    Rob@6- I’ve been waiting for forty years to see how much economic pain non-wealthy, conservative whites are willing to endure before they wake up to how badly the people they vote for screw them over. It appears many are willing to die -- literally, if we are believe their stop-the-steal rhetoric -- so I guess there is no end in sight.

  8. springa73 says

    In addition to bipartisanship not being an end in itself, it also only works if both sides are willing to give up some of what they want. The Republicans for the last generation or so have never been willing to do this. When they call for “bipartisanship”, they really mean capitulation to their demands. They seem to want to pretend that they still hold the majority in Congress even though they no longer do so. Under these circumstances, it would be ridiculous to give in to their demands.

  9. brucegee1962 says

    Here’s an article
    about the problems of the “screw bipartisanship” attitude. Among other things…
    1) There isn’t necessarily a guarantee that the Democrats will stick together on, well, anything. If they count on using their bare majority counting Kamala, that unfortunately gives Joe Manchin an inordinate amount of power, which nobody but Joe Manchin thinks is a good idea.
    2) If you count on the budget reconciliation process to get things through, it’s rather arcane with many pitfalls.
    3) Anything passed with only Dem votes becomes a club that Republicans will try to beat you with. If there are votes from both sides of the aisle, it is easier to sell to the public.

  10. jrkrideau says

    Is there any other country in the United Nations that has two official parties?

  11. springa73 says

    @9 -- Good point, the Democrats really aren’t in that strong a position in Congress, since their majorities are razor thin.

    @10 -- Don’t know, but I’m pretty sure there are some that only have one. Also, the US of course does have other parties, just only 2 that get significant numbers of votes.

  12. says

    As I’ve noted elsewhere: Biden had a front-row seat for the GOP’s egregiously intransigent selfishness during the Obama administration, seeing as how he was the VP and all. It would be foolish to think that he isn’t at least aware of the risk of similar GOP intransigence now. But even if Biden actually does believe, against all evidence, that the GOP has any interest in,… you know… good governance, there’s Biden’s VP, Kamala Harris, to consider.
    Let’s just say that it would be very on-brand for an old white guy to get all the credit and attention while a Black woman gets shit done.

  13. prl says

    jrkrideau @10

    There are a few countries where there are a small number of large parties that dominate the parliament, or at least the chamber where government is formed. UK & Australia, for example. I think it’s something that tends to flow from having single-member electorates rather than some sort of proportional representation.

  14. jrkrideau says

    @ 13 prl
    I think it’s something that tends to flow from having single-member electorates rather than some sort of proportional representation.

    Seems likely though both Canada and the UK have somewhat multiparty systems. We in Canada are currently in a minority gov’t situation because of it.

    However, the real point I was trying to make rather clumsily is that in the USA, the Republican and Democratic Parties are embedded in law, etc. States maintain some kind of party lists and finance the Republican and Democratic parties’ primaries.

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