U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems to be reneging on his pledge to bring bi-partisan criminal justice reform to the floor of the Senate for a vote during the lame duck session. It is ironic that Senator Grassley is complaining about McConnell’s so well-established duplicity.
Grassley, as lame-duck chairman of the Judiciary Committee, can put a hold on judicial appointments until McConnell caves in. It will be interesting to see if our esteemed Senator has the guts to play hardball with McConnell or whether, like health care and immigration reform, Grassley positions himself as a reformer, while ultimately backing off when action is required.
McConnell has also denied a floor vote on a bill to block Trump from firing or interfering with the Mueller investigation, while many GOP Senators have stated that the investigation should be completed without interference. It appears Grassley has, again, traded the Common Good for the power of U.S. Oligarchy.
McConnell’s tactics have been a perfect foil to Trump, placing the power of a Senate majority leader over the will of a majority of the Senate. The House has been no better with a GOP policy of never bringing a vote to the floor without a majority of GOP support, soon to be replaced with the bi-partisan policies of the Democrats. The irony is that a bi-partisan House vote will attract few GOP votes because their caucus has become so rigid and a handful of alleged “moderates” have been replaced by Democrats.
We often discuss the need for bi-partisanship as a return to collegial relationships with members of both parties (tempered by a handful of Independents). But bi-partisanship has rarely been the result of social relations between colleagues, but more often about finding a middle ground and allowing voting procedures that are open rather than closed.
Democrats on the left have aspirations for universal pre-school and health care, a minimum living wage, strict controls over corporate financial affairs, etc. But there is a great opportunity for compromise that will ameliorate the issues faced by Americans without exacerbating national debt. Creative solutions such as replacing a student loan system with low interest loans from the U.S. Treasury and financing infrastructure with new revenue sources such as a tiny tax on stock and bond sales can lead to solutions that can find bi-partisan support.
Granting states the freedom to set living wages, to protect migrants from draconian federal intervention and to allow strict gun controls while allowing the courts to settle extreme abortion, egregious gerrymandering and voter suppression laws may be more progressive than fighting impasses with a GOP Senate.
When Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer seek middle ground solutions, they should be respected by Democrats who may prefer they grandstand on “principle.” The GOP has abandoned moderation for orthodoxy and opened the door for a coalition of Liberal and Moderate Democrats. Bipartisanship will be the road to returning the Senate and Presidency to Democratic majorities in 2020.
by Tim Urban