Today, we are on the verge of seeing Congress pass legislation providing economic assistance for individuals and companies. The debate continued so long that the close observer most likely suffered from viewer fatigue.
But, there is something different going on. A bipartisan group of Senators worked at working together. And, by doing so, they achieved something many had forgotten possible. Namely, the number of Senators backing a relief package exceeded 51 and that meant the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, faced the possibility of having any one Senator call for a vote on the measure, something allowed by the Senate rules.
None of this just happened by accident. David Brooks tweeted that he was on a conference call discussing these developments with the the No Labels group (www.NoLabels.org) where negotiations on the $900 billion stimulus legislation were being discussed. He described a level of bipartisan enthusiasm not recently witnessed.
The measure does not provide liability limiting elements that Senate Leader McConnell said any bill must have before he brought it to a vote. But, the power of 51+ Senators caused a rare retreat by Leader McConnell. Bipartisanship and process finally worked to favor action over inaction.
It is being suggested that Leader McConnell moved off his objection because Senators in Georgia facing reelection are being hammered by voters for no stimulus package. This is surely true, but it had been true for some time. None the less, the political realities along with the vote count provided a path for McConnell’s endorsement.
Doing the big things that need to be done will require more not less of this. But, as the stimulus package moves to final passage, there is a sign of hope in the governing process.
Craig Fuller served four years in the White House as assistant to President Reagan for Cabinet Affairs, followed by four years as chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush. Having been engaged in five presidential campaigns and run public affairs firms and associations in Washington, D.C., he now resides on the Eastern Shore.