Post-Election Bipartisanship Fails First Media Test
Policy + Politics

Post-Election Bipartisanship Fails First Media Test

Senate Republicans—both veterans and newcomers—gamely tried to lay a path forward for legislative accomplishment in the 114th Congress on the Sunday shows today. But when a panel of mainly House lawmakers on CNN devolved from a discussion about cooperation into an argument about immigration reform, the likely shape of Washington, DC for the next two years was revealed.

On CNN, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) struck a tone of bipartisanship. “There are a number of things on which there is pretty broad bipartisan support,” he said. “We ought to focus on those things. Try to move those things. Let’s put up some legislative accomplishments, which I think would help build trust to enable us to do some bigger things down the road – tax reform, entitlement reform, things that would really jumpstart our economy.”

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Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who just won an open Senate seat from her state in part of a wave that switched the body’s control to the GOP side, said what many of her colleagues have been suggesting: that the President and Congress start small, with some achievements both can agree on.

Lawmakers, she said, should “Score some small victories, bipartisan with the president, showing and demonstrating to that disaffected majority of Americans out there that we can begin to solve the problems.”

She listed the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, small tax reform measures, and a transportation bill as good candidates.

She also said that she hopes President Obama will not try to press the Senate to approve his nominee for Attorney General during the coming lame duck session, in which the Democrats will retain Senate control.

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“If we are going to have an era of good faith here, we have to begin with the confirmation process for one of the most powerful jobs in the country,” she said.

Echoing the idea that there is at least the possibility of bipartisanship, Rep. Cory Gardner, who unseated Colorado Democrat Mark Udall to win a seat in the Senate last Tuesday, called the voters’ decision to send more Republicans to Washington “a rejection of the failed ways of Washington.”

On the fraught question of immigration reform, he said that the President’s threat to act to halt deportations via executive order would be damaging, and he urged his colleagues to give Obama reason to believe that Republicans plan to move forward on the issue in good faith.

“We have to make sure we work with the president,” Gardner said. “Show a willingness in the House and the Senate to work together so that the president can ultimately do the right thing. The right thing for the president to do isn’t going around Congress but it’s working with Congress, so I think that’s the challenge that this new era of good will, so to speak, presents for us.”

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But Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the chair of the Senate Republican Policy Committee took a harder tone on both the president and immigration reform.

“He is not fully grasping the significant defeat for his party and his policies,” Barrasso said. “As he said, his policies were on the ballot, each and every one of them. His policies have been rejected by the voters, not just because they are unpopular but because they don’t work.”

Executive action on immigration, he said is, “Like the president pulling the pin out of the hand grenade and throwing it in as we’re actually trying to work together. I’m hoping cooler heads at the White House can prevail to say look, if you want to have a good constructive final two years of your presidency, don’t do this now.”

Then Barrasso said the president of focused exclusively on immigration during a lengthy meeting with lawmakers at the White House on Friday, while not addressing jobs, the economy, affordable energy and healthcare.

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“I was astonished that during that whole lunch the president didn’t ask us anything about that at all, he was so focused on this executive amnesty issue that he ignored the idea of having a dialogue on ways we could actually change the direction of the country and move forward.”

Somewhat incredulously, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) reminded Barrasso that it had not been the president, but House Speaker John Boehner who brought up the issue of immigration reform.

Barrasso retorted, “The president spent an inordinate amount of time talking about executive action.”

It was on CNN, though, where host Candy Crowley brought together a group of four recently-elected House members and three current members, including retiring Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN), Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), and Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), that we got a real sense of what’s to come.

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About halfway through the segment, Bachman and Israel began talking over each other in an argument over immigration reform. It quickly became a cacophony as members and members-elect tried to get their say on camera.

As Crowley took the show to a commercial break, Representative-elect Lee Zeldin, a New York Republican, said drily, “We're all getting along and things have changed now with the new members.”

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