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Thune: Bipartisanship Should be the Standard, Not the Exception in the Senate

β€œThe Senate fulfills its constitutional role best when it engages in serious bipartisan consideration and negotiation – and ensures that members of both parties are heard.”

April 22, 2021

Washington — 

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the importance of bipartisan cooperation in the Senate, which was designed to promote moderation and consensus. Thune expressed his hope that Democrats will work with Republicans on meaningful bipartisan legislation, especially on a substantial infrastructure bill.

 

Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):

“Mr. President, today we’re wrapping up consideration of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.

“And next week, the majority leader has indicated that the Senate will take up the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021.

“These are both bipartisan pieces of legislation.

“The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act was an initially partisan bill that has now been improved by input from Republicans and I expect will receive strong bipartisan support on final passage.

“And the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act has been 100 percent bipartisan from the very beginning.

“Senators Duckworth and Capito developed this legislation along with Democrat Senators Carper and Cardin and Republican Senators Lummis and Cramer.

“The legislation then went through regular committee consideration and was reported out of the Environment and Public Works Committee to the full Senate with a unanimous vote.

“It’s a model for how we should work here in the Senate.

“Mr. President, after a very partisan start to this Congress, with Democrats and the president steamrolling through a massive, partisan “COVID” bill packed with non-COVID-related priorities, it’s encouraging to see the Senate working the way it should:

“Senators from both parties talking, negotiating, and coming together to work out legislation that both parties can support.

“It’s particularly encouraging to see the drinking water and wastewater bill, a bipartisan effort from start to finish – and a too-rare example of legislation that went through the committee process, which should be our goal for most bills in the Senate.

“I hope this trend will continue.

“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 to ensure Republicans don’t have a voice in the legislation.  

“Mr. President, 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 infrastructure.

“I’m encouraged by President Biden’s decision to meet with Republicans to discuss infrastructure legislation.

“Republicans have now met with the president at least twice, and more meetings are expected.

“I anticipate meeting with the president and other senators soon to discuss broadband infrastructure priorities.

“I hope we can reach bipartisan agreement on priorities in this area – including closing the digital divide by increasing broadband access in rural America, and removing obstacles to digital infrastructure deployment.

“I know it can be done.

“When I served as chairman of the Commerce Committee, for example, we passed bipartisan legislation that reduced the red tape associated with building broadband networks, and I introduced bipartisan legislation to accelerate 5G infrastructure deployment.

“There’s a lot of bipartisan agreement to be found on infrastructure in general.

“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 one I led, and 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.

“Last Congress, the Environment and Public Works Committee here in the Senate developed bipartisan infrastructure legislation.

“And there is no reason that we shouldn’t reach bipartisan agreement on another substantial piece of infrastructure legislation.

“Senator Capito and other Republicans will be releasing a Republican proposal today that will reflect a lot of bipartisan infrastructure priorities.

“I hope that after she releases this proposal, Democrats and Republicans will be able to sit down and engage in serious negotiation on our two plans.

“Mr. President, our Founders established a democratic republic, instead of a pure democracy, because they wanted to balance majority rule with protection for minority rights.

“They knew that majorities could be tyrants, and so they wove protection for minority rights into our system of government.

“And 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 voice in legislation.

“So it’s always important that the minority party’s voice be heard and that the Senate engage in bipartisan negotiation and discussion.

“But it should be especially obvious that in a 50-50 Senate any major legislation should be bipartisan.

“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. 

“Mr. President, in his inauguration address President Biden appeared to recognize the bipartisan character of his mandate 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.

“But as I said, I am encouraged that it appears he may be changing that when it comes to infrastructure. 

“I hope Senate – and House – Democrats will follow his lead.

“The ball is in Democrats’ court.

“We can pass a substantial, bipartisan infrastructure bill.

“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.

“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”