ARTHUR CYR: News flash: Washington is sure to be in conflict | New
The current deadlock in Congress is frustrating for Democrats who support President Joe Biden’s extremely broad domestic spending legislation. Note: Not all Democrats are backing this latest spending explosion.
The White House is trying to exploit the situation with the public, but so far the nation as a whole is not buying what is peddled to them. The particular economic and political circumstances that allowed Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson to succeed with ambitious legislative agendas simply do not exist today.
In Virginia, support for the relatively unknown political newcomer Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin is one indication.
President Biden’s low poll count and his failure so far to inspire broad active public support is a major problem. The perceived trial and error and ineffectiveness are greatly compounded by the disastrous and poorly managed US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
American citizens, as well as a large population of Afghans who assisted us, remain in this besieged country. We deserted our friends with our fellow Americans. Biden’s self-righteous self-defense has only further weakened his public support, and rightly so.
Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have risen to prominence, gained influence, and are being criticized by other Democrats as well as biased media for opposing the House agenda White. In the equally divided 50-50 Senate, their opposition has so far proved decisive.
Yet stalled legislative agendas and resentful partisanship are nothing new. An instructive and revealing example is the retirement of President John Boehner (R-OH). His September 2015 announcement stunned everyone, including his friends and allies. Boehner concluded a particularly difficult tour of service in the managerial position.
Boehner as president was a partisan Republican but also a dedicated lawmaker. He is rightly proud to do the job. It meant compromising on occasion with the Democrats while simultaneously working to keep the increasingly aggressive House Republicans together.
In 2013, Republicans successfully shut down government as part of efforts to derail the Affordable Care Act. Democrats led by President Barack Obama have benefited politically. Boehner’s decision made another shutdown less likely.
The practice of holding the federal budget hostage to controversial partisan maneuvers has now existed for many years. In 1994, Republicans took control of the United States House of Representatives after 40 years of minority status. Their majority was led by the new Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich (R-GA), who dramatically accelerated the trend to shift this office from a relatively non-partisan to a very partisan one.
Then like today, Democrats in the White House and Republicans in Congress played a growing budget chicken game. The federal government was briefly closed. In the maneuvers of the political and public media, President Bill Clinton won politically by skillfully putting the blame on Gingrich’s Republicans.
Democrat Sam Rayburn of Texas remains the House’s longest-serving speaker. From the 1940s to the 1960s, he successfully practiced bipartisanship, despite the political challenges of the time.
Rayburn possessed exceptional political skills, but also today an intense partisanship more clearly separates political parties devoid of Conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans. In addition, our partisan and ubiquitous media are raising the political temperature.
However, there is nothing new in the challenge of managing Congress.
Find out more: John Boehner, “On the House”
Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College and author of “After the Cold War” (NYU Press and Macmillan). Readers can write to him at [email protected]