Democrats hold the majority in the House of Representatives.
They hold a narrow majority in the Senate.
They have the White House.
And up until last week, they actually believed they could make common cause with republicans for the good of the republic.
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch “The Grim Reaper” McConnell said the quiet part out loud during the two-week July 4 congressional recess when he returned to Kentucky and admitted to NBC News “the era of bipartisanship on this stuff is over.”
The “this stuff” he refers to is the “American Jobs Plan,” which seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions, address racial and economic disparities that lead to higher pollution in communities of color, distribute electric car charging stations across the country, and create tens of thousands of well-paying union jobs transitioning the country away from fossil fuels.
McConnell had tapped West Va. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito to be the republican point person to negotiate with the Biden administration.
The original spending proposal for the package was $2.3 trillion.
Despite not voting for it, McConnell boasted to his constituents about the amount their state is going receive:
“So you’re going to get a lot more money. I didn’t vote for it, but you’re going to get a lot more money. Cities and counties in Kentucky will get close to $700-800 million. If you add up the total amount that’ll come into our state: $4 billion…. So my advice to members of the legislature and other local officials: Spend it wisely because hopefully this windfall doesn’t come along again…. We’ve floated entirely too much money.”
McConnell, in Kentucky, talks Biden's $1.9T Covid relief law: "It passed on a straight party line vote… So you're going to get a lot more money. I didn't vote for it, but you're going to get a lot more money. Cities and counties in Kentucky will get close to $700-800 million."
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) July 6, 2021
“Hopefully this windfall doesn’t come along again.”
He actually announced to his constituents that they should not expect any more financial relief.
Audacious, but not surprising.
This has been McConnell’s modus operandi since he pronounced back at the beginning of Obama’s first term that, amid the worst economic conditions since the republican Great Depression of 1929, his number-one priority was not to stanch the 700,000 jobs a month we were hemorrhaging and get the economy humming again.
His primary concern was to ensure Barack Obama was a one-term president.
The night of January 20, 2009, while newly sworn-in Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were bouncing from inaugural ball to inaugural ball, a group of powerful Republicans convened in the back room of Washington D.C.’s “Caucus Room” restaurant to hedge a plan to stymie the first African American president’s legacy.
That plan included obfuscating and circumventing any legislation Obama might support.
Congressman Pete Sessions vowed to employ “Taliban-like” tactics.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy–today the House Minority Leader–promised to obstruct every piece of legislation, even ones his party previously supported.
According to author Robert Draper in his book Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives, McCarthy is quoted as saying:
“If you act like you’re the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority. We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.”
A year later, republican Sen. Mitch McConnell warned Obama to embrace the GOP lest he suffer the fate of being a one-term president.
Obama recounts in his memoir A Promised Land a conversation he had with republican Sen. Chuck Grassley about republicans’ transient demands for the changes they wished to see to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka “Obamacare.”
After months of bending over backwards to placate republicans, Obama asked Grassley if he would support any health care bill that included all republican demands.
Grassley replied, “I guess not, Mr. President.”
Sen. Mike Enzi led Democrats on for months on healthcare before finally admitting he never had any intention of voting for the bill.
When it came to immigration, GOP lawmakers demanded Obama’s primary focus should have been on security and enforcement.
After meeting their demands, republicans voted against a comprehensive reform bill.
Did republicans “reach across the aisle” during the two years they were in the majority the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency?
Not on your life.
Why would they?
If they weren’t going to do it when they weren’t in power, why would we assume they would when they were?
So now the bipartisan dream is dashed, Democrats need to publicly repeat what Minority Leader McConnell announced if they stand a chance of retaining the majority after next year’s mid-term elections.
They also need to push the progressive agenda President Biden came into office championing.
Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, & Third Wednesday. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, Liberal Nation Rising, and Medium.