In the political arena, we have accepted a presumed truism - that Congressional Republicans and Democrats can’t work together. We are told this by newspaper articles and columnists, television pundits, and the Senators and Representatives themselves. So who would have expected that when they got into a mutual bind, they would help each other out?
Earlier this week Senate Republicans and Democrats did just that. They didn’t help us out but they helped each other get out of their respective sticky situations. Once again it was centered on the looming “fiscal cliff” that is projected to happen January 1, 2013 absent any action by Congress to prevent it.
The Senate, under Majority Leader Harry Reid, had scheduled a procedural vote as to whether to move ahead with the tax bill – a bill that provided for the extension of the Bush tax cuts for everyone except those with incomes over $250,000. The Senate Republicans had said they would filibuster it and so it was never really expected to come to a vote. But, lo and behold, this
impasse presented problems for Senators of both persuasions. The Republican Senators were fearful of preventing a vote on this bill by filibustering it and thereby risking going into the November election having effectively voted to increase taxes for the majority of citizens. The Democratic Senators were
going to be deprived of a chance to actually vote to support middle class tax
cuts. So the Republican Minority Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, gave up the filibuster thus letting the Democratic tax measure to go to a vote. This allowed a
Republican-amended version to be voted on first. The Republican version would
have extended all tax cuts for one year. It was defeated as expected but the Republican Senators now get to say that they voted to extend the tax cuts. After the amended version went to defeat, the Democratic version - extending cuts to all but those over the $250,000 earnings – was passed, thus allowing the Democrats to say they have taken the first step to avoid the “fiscal cliff” and also save the tax cuts for the middle class. The passed bill, however, will go to oblivion in the House of Representatives – a fact known to
both parties before they voted.
No doubt trouble for one side and not the other would not have resulted in this accommodation and the vote happening, however meaningless it is. But it does show that they can, and do, work with each other when their mutual interests are affected. What will really be news is when they get together when our interests are affected.