By Robert Scott
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Remember when former President Trump derided then-candidate Joe Biden for having served 44 years in Washington and not accomplishing anything? And how even as President, Donald Trump repeatedly described himself as representing “red states” and his core constituency, rather than representing the country as a whole? The current administration under President Biden is taking a different tack, and there are beginning to be cracks in the solidly partisan Congress that he inherited on taking office this past January. Not only are some of those within the Democratic party who are the least centrist beginning to question the Biden priorities, but, more importantly, those within the Republican party who are the most centrist are beginning to work with the administration on important legislation.
Back in March, the COVID relief bill (“The American Rescue Plan Act”) was signed into law. By Senate rules, it was a budget bill and required just a simple majority vote; it was enacted with only Democratic votes, including Vice President Harris as the tiebreaker. This time around, there is an Infrastructure Bill working its way through the Senate and (unless the Senate changes its rules) it would require at least 60 votes to pass. But thanks to President Biden’s 44 years of DC experience, there has been a bipartisan committee working on that legislation. It passed its first step (to consider further discussion of the bill) with all 50 Democrats as well as 17 Republicans voting in favor, seven more than the final bill would need. Some of the compromises needed to pass the bill in the Senate will likely cause it to lose some Democratic votes in the House, but if a percentage of House Republicans votes liketheir Senate counterparts then it will pass there as well, and be signed into law – probably before the end of this month.
We need Bipartisan action in order to heal the country’s division into the warring camps – that used to be just an abstract phrase, until January 6th – that were encouraged by the previous administration and, personally, by Donald Trump. And we need it particularly this summer and fall, as the COVID-19 crisis is going through its fourth wave of infecting and killing Americans. We are not there yet, by a long shot; as he had done under President Obama, the minority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has said that he will work to try to ensure President Biden’s failure rather than to ensure America’s success. But Leader McConnell was among the 17 Republicans supporting the infrastructure bill (as was South Carolina’s Sen. Lindsey Graham, who himself tested positive for COVID-19 this week), so there may be hope that bipartisanship is really on the rise. Our Representative Jeff Duncan is probably a lost cause; to the best of my knowledge, he has opposed every sincere attempt at bipartisanship proposed by anyone of either party, in previous sessions of Congress as well as in the current one. But if we could convince Senator Tim Scott to join Senator Graham in working toward compromise bipartisan legislation, it truly would become a trend that we South Carolinians would be proud to support.