The Cost of Bipartisanship

The price Biden pays by working with the GOP.

By both choice and necessity, Joe Biden is committed to governing in a bipartisan fashion. In his presidential campaign, he touted his ability to work with Republicans. This inclination, combined with the narrow 50-50 Senate and pressure from Senators like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema means bipartisanship is the order of the day.

But bipartisanship comes at price, which is worth spelling out.

One: Bipartisanship means less accountability.

Last week, the Senate released a report on the January 6 attack on the Capitol Building. As Greg Sargent made clear in The Washington Post, the report was signed off by both parties, and therefore deliberately shied away from the GOP’s culpability in political violence:

While the report is well executed on that topic, it’s also notable for what it does not cover: It does not officially describe the attack as an “insurrection,” instead opting for the word “attack,” and it avoids a frank discussion of the role played by one Donald J. Trump.

In short, the only history of the insurrection that Republicans will acknowledge is one that carefully sanitizes the role in inciting the mob played by the then-president — and by Republicans themselves.

What’s more, the only permissible history for them is one that buries another profoundly consequential truth: that Trump fully intended to disrupt the election’s conclusion by inciting a mob attack on duly elected lawmakers. Republicans refuse to reckon with this event as an act of mass political violence, one in which they are deeply implicated.

Two: Bipartisanship means more pork.

Last week, the Senate passed a rare bill with overwhelming bipartisan support. As The Washington Post reports, the “Senate voted on Tuesday to adopt an approximately $250 billion bill to counter China’s growing economic and military prowess, hoping that major investments in science — and fresh punishments targeting Beijing — might give the United States a lasting edge.”

The bill is an over-stuffed military industrial pork barrel. For starters, it hands over $10 billion in public funding for a space company owned by Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man.

Pork isn’t necessarily bad when the economy is still sputtering from the pandemic. It can serve as a Keynesian stimulus. But, classic old-school military Keynesianism, fuelled by great power rivalry and funneling money to big tech, will only exacerbate inequality and do nothing to grapple with climate change.

Three: Bipartisanship only goes in one direction.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that if the GOP wins back the Senate, they will likely block any Supreme Court nominee Joe Biden makes, as they blocked the Merrick Garland nomination in 2016.

As NBC reporter Sahil Kapur notes, McConnell’s brazen partisanship is enabled by the fact that there is no consequence for it:

Another way to put this is that one-sided bipartisanship by Democrats feeds into unilateral partisanship from Republicans. Biden might have no other choice but to govern in a bipartisan manner, but in doing so he’s only stoking the fires of GOP extremism.

(Edited by Emily M. Keeler)

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