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Partisanship Is Not the Solution

By Sen. John Thune

April 23, 2021

Democrats want the Senate to take up infrastructure legislation in the near future – a goal Republicans fully support. What we don’t support is Democrats’ threat to shove through another massive, partisan bill – this time on infrastructure – using reconciliation rules (a parliamentary procedure to expedite legislation with only a simple majority) to ensure Republicans don’t have a voice in the legislation. 

The Senate was designed to promote moderation and consensus. It was intended to be a check on the more partisan – or, as the Founders would put it, factious – House of Representatives. And the Senate fulfills its constitutional role best when it engages in serious bipartisan consideration and negotiation – and ensures that members of both parties are heard. This is the framework we should adopt for any major piece of legislation.

Unfortunately, Democrats seem determined to push through a far-left agenda. Most recently, the House passed a bill to make D.C. the 51st state, trampling on the intention of our Founding Fathers: our capital’s independence from any one state. This, along with their bill to expand the Supreme Court from nine justices to 13 and their attempt to eliminate the legislative filibuster, is yet another example of a Democrat power grab.

Democrats from both the House and the Senate also recently introduced their “Green New Deal,” a left-wing smorgasbord of government-knows-best policies that, if enacted, would have a massively negative effect on the U.S. economy and hit family budgets across the country. For American families, it would essentially mean higher taxes and higher energy costs.

And now Democrats are threatening to go it alone to pass a $2.2 trillion liberal wish list masquerading as an infrastructure bill.

Congress has a history of bipartisan collaboration on infrastructure legislation. Our last major infrastructure bill, the FAST Act, went through regular order in several committees, including the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which I led. It was supported by both Democrats and Republicans, and it was a remarkably successful bill. Not long thereafter, our committee spearheaded enactment of the longest reauthorization of the FAA since the early 1980s – including critical programs to improve airport infrastructure. And last Congress, the Environment and Public Works Committee developed bipartisan infrastructure legislation. There is no good reason that we shouldn’t reach bipartisan agreement on another substantial piece of infrastructure legislation. But that will require a willingness from Democrats to actually engage in bipartisan collaboration.

Our Founders established a democratic republic, instead of a pure democracy, because they wanted to balance majority rule with protection for the rights of the minority. They knew that majorities could be tyrants, and so they wove protections for minority rights into our system of government. The Senate was one of those protections.

That’s why we should be preserving rules like the filibuster, which ensures that the minority party – and the many Americans it represents – has a real voice in legislation.

If one thing is for sure, it’s that a 50-50 Senate is not a mandate for one side to force through its agenda unchecked. It is absurd for Senate Democrats – or House Democrats – to pretend they have a mandate for a partisan revolution. And yet much of the legislation they have been pushing since taking office appears to have been drafted by members of the extreme left wing of their party. 

In his inauguration address, President Biden appeared to recognize the importance of bipartisanship and his obligation to work with members of both parties and promote unity in the country. Unfortunately, to date his administration has not delivered on that promise of bipartisan leadership.

We can pass a substantial, bipartisan infrastructure bill together, or Democrats can continue down the extremely partisan path they’ve been pursuing. For the sake of our country, I hope they will choose bipartisanship.