In a bit of non-breaking news that will surprise nobody, The Hill reports that multiple Republican Senators have been grumbling behind the scenes. Their main issue is the disconnect between newly anointed President Joe Biden’s public rhetoric and the reality of their day-to-day jobs. Biden has called for “unity” and “healing” in the post-Trump era during nearly every one of his public speeches and appearances. But in reality, these Senators claim that they’re mostly getting the cold shoulder from both the Oval Office and their Democratic colleagues. Some of the available evidence appears to support these claims, too.
This month’s impeachment trial in which seven Republicans joined 50 Democrats in voting to convict former President Trump of inciting an insurrection may be the high-water mark of bipartisanship under President Biden, according to grumbling GOP senators.
Republicans acknowledge that Biden has improved the tone of civility in Washington, but they complain that he and his party haven’t made much of an effort to work with them.
Democrats don’t appear interested in having a real bipartisan negotiation on a COVID-19 relief bill or an upcoming infrastructure and jobs package, the senators complain.
Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia were both part of a group of ten GOP senators who met with Joe Biden a few weeks ago to discuss a compromise on a smaller COVID relief bill. They brought a proposal with them, but both say that they never heard another word about it.
None of the GOP senators are likely very surprised, or so I would guess. After brief floor debates over a few of the details of the COVID relief bill, the Democrats made it known that they were going to jam the bill through via reconciliation with a simple Senate majority rather than trying to get ten Republicans to buy into the deal. Kamala Harris may have to break a tie on that one, assuming they can even get all of the Democrats to go along. The Democrats are already eyeing a similar plan to pass a massive infrastructure bill next month.
While the Senate GOP may be given Biden the credit for “improving the tone” on Capitol Hill, a less rancorous tone doesn’t mean much if there’s still no movement toward cooperation on actual bills. Both Schumer and Pelosi have hung out the “my way or the highway” signs and not much has changed since the new Congress was seated.
Granted, the Senate GOP similarly pushed through their own agenda while Trump was in office and Cocaine Mitch was in the Majority Leader’s office. That’s particularly true for judicial confirmations. But at least Trump never tried to sugarcoat it. Until their recent fallout, he was one of McConnell’s biggest cheerleaders, praising him for getting the job done and basically telling the Democrats to pound sand.
To be fair, it’s not as if the Senate Republicans haven’t been crossing the aisle and offering some bipartisan cover to the Democrats thus far. That’s particularly true of the confirmation of Biden’s cabinet nominees. Lloyd Austin and Antony Blinken were both confirmed with significant majorities of 93 and 78 respectively. If the current Senate situation were really a case of trench warfare as it’s being made out to be in the media, neither of them would have gotten much past 55.
When it comes to massive legislative packages, however, it’s likely to be another story. Everyone remembers how the Democrats pushed through Obamacare with almost zero GOP support. (And we all know how that worked out.) Every time Kamala Harris has to come down to break a tie, Chuck Schumer is going to be holding his breath and waiting to see if Joe Manchin will bolt off of the ranch again. The Republicans at least have one thing going for them. If either of these packages turns out to be a massive disaster, the Democrats and Joe Biden are going to own it entirely.