President Obama has bemoaned the lack of bipartisanship in congress during his presidency, so it’s not without some irony that his State of the Union proposal to tax 529 plans unified both Democratic and Republican opposition to it. Furthermore, it’s not just low ranking Democrats that were opposed. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Budget Committee ranking Democrat Chris Van Hollen both called on the president to drop the plan. You could say we’ve gone from the party of no to the parties of no.
Yet that would be a mischaracterization of what’s happening in Washington. This week also saw Democrats and Republicans come together to support legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline. After three weeks of Senate debate, the resulting bill was voted on. Nine Democrats supported its passage with a final vote of 62-36.
Some might think that now Republicans control both houses of congress we’d see less cooperation across party lines. That might be the case if it were in fact true that for the past six years Republicans have just been the party of no. But as I wrote last January in a blog entitled “Who killed bipartisanship in Washington DC“, Republicans in the House have been passing jobs bills, patent reform, cybersecurity bills and more that were never even debated in the Senate and died there.
As I discussed, while the Democrats had the majority in the Senate, their leader Harry Reid refused to take up bills with bipartisan support such as Keystone or sanctions against Iran. Furthermore, Reid had killed the work of senate committees, was drafting legislation himself and was not permitting amendments from either party.
It’s not surprising then that now Republicans are letting committees operate, allowing amendments from both parties and scheduling debates, we’re starting to see bipartisanship take place again.