Right now, Republican senators who reluctantly supported a relief and stimulus package with wildly inadequate $600 direct payments to help people survive the COVID-19 economy are talking about how very sad they are that congressional Democrats are making noises about using reconciliation to pass a new bill with a simple majority rather than allowing it to be filibustered. They’re appealing to President Biden to make those mean Democrats stop trying to help people put food on their tables.
“The president is sincere in his commitment to bipartisanship. That’s the way he always operated when he was a senator. And from my conversations with him since the election, it seems clear to me that he wants to continue to operate that way,” Sen. Susan Collins said. And I’m sure he does—but not at the cost of doing the right thing for the public and the economy, I’d hope. Which means he wouldn’t be doing what Collins wants and backing a watered-down relief package.
”This is the smartest and best place for the president to start on his unity promises,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said. “That’s where I think the president has to show the leadership of what he has said he wants to do. … He is the president. So what I think the Democratic leaders need to realize is it’s his agenda.” And what Republican pretenders-to-bipartisanship need to realize is that Biden’s agenda includes helping people and strengthening the economy, not going back on his promises and tanking both the economy and his support in the name of a false bipartisanship.
“Part of unifying the country is addressing the problems that the American people are facing,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in response to a reporter’s question using Republican framing on bipartisanship and Biden’s goals of unity. Exactly: Republicans in Congress aren’t the only people involved in unity, though they may think they’re the center of the universe. Psaki noted the multiple polls showing widespread public support for a real relief package, and Biden’s outreach not just to Republicans in Congress but to governors and mayors around the country to find out what their needs are.
At the same time that Republicans are whining about bipartisanship, House Republicans are refusing to take action on their own members who are literally leaving House Democrats afraid for their lives. Some Republicans have carried or tried to carry guns onto the House floor, and had temper tantrums over metal detectors put out to prevent exactly that. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has hit like on social media posts about assassinating Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders. When video of Greene harassing Parkland survivor David Hogg resurfaced, Rep. Lauren Boebert responded by … harassing Hogg online. Both Greene and Boebert did what they could in inciting the Capitol insurrection.
Democrats are literally buying bulletproof vests in part out of fear of their coworkers, and Republican leaders are treating Greene and Boebert as caucus members in good standing. Any Republican in Congress who is not calling for Greene and Boebert to face consequences—and not just calling for it in one media interview, but using whatever leverage they have to make it happen—can shut all the way up about bipartisanship. And if they do open their mouths without first earning it, it is incumbent on the media to ignore or outright mock and condemn them.
For their part, Democrats absolutely should go ahead with reconciliation if Republicans refuse to do what’s right for the country. And they should jam that bipartisanship whining right back in the Republicans’ faces—heaven knows the past four years gave them plenty of material to work with.