When Will Democrats Learn to Stop Expecting Republican Support?

Democrats hold the majority in the House of Representatives.

They hold a narrow majority in the Senate.

They have the White House.

So why are they bowing to republicans?

At a carpenters’ training center outside Pittsburgh, Pa. last month, President Joe Biden outlined the historic “American Jobs Plan” intended to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, confront climate change, and curb wealth inequality.

Naturally, republicans balked at the idea, claiming the $2.3 trillion initiative to cut greenhouse gas emissions, address racial and economic disparities, distribute electric car charging stations across the country, create tens of thousands of well-paying union jobs transitioning the country away from fossil fuels, invest $100 billion each in strengthening electrical grids and expanding affordable high-speed broadband, and build and retrofit homes, a “liberal wish list of big government waste.

But instead of continuing to channel Franklin Roosevelt, as has been his wont since taking office, impressing even progressives, the old center-right, too-willing-to-get-a-bit-too-cozy-with-republicans Joe Biden is beginning to re-emerge.

Despite taking advantage of the Democratic majority, the Biden administration last week, in a good-faith effort to “reach across the aisle,” decreased the original spending proposal to $1.7 trillion.

This might sound prudent in a time when republicans were actually willing to work with Democrats.

The thing is, they haven’t been willing to do that since Barack Obama moved into the Oval Office in 2009.

This is just another case of Lucy promising not to yank away the football just as Charlie Brown is about to finally kick it.

The night of January 20, 2009, while newly sworn-in Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were bouncing from inaugural ball to inaugural ball, a group of powerful Republicans convened in the back room of Washington D.C.’s “Caucus Room” restaurant to hedge a plan to stymie the first African American president’s legacy.

That plan included obfuscating and circumventing any legislation Obama might support.

Remember what was going on in America when Obama took office.

We were hemorrhaging 700,000 jobs a month and the economy was in free fall.

But with what were republicans most concerned?

Denying Barack Obama any legislative victories–even at their constituents’ expense.

Congressman Pete Sessions vowed to employ “Taliban-like” tactics.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy–today the House Minority Leader–promised to obstruct every piece of legislation, even ones his party previously supported.

According to author Robert Draper in his book Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives, McCarthy is quoted as saying:

“If you act like you’re the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority. We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.”

A year later, republican Sen. Mitch McConnell warned Obama to embrace the GOP lest he suffer the fate of being a one-term president.

Obama recounts in his memoir A Promised Land a conversation he had with republican Sen. Chuck Grassley about republicans’ transient demands for the changes they wished to see to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka “Obamacare.”

After months of bending over backwards to placate republicans, Obama asked Grassley if he would support any health care bill that included all republican demands.

Grassley replied, “I guess not, Mr. President.”

Sen. Mike Enzi led Democrats on for months on healthcare before finally admitting he never had any intention of voting for the bill.

When it came to immigration, GOP lawmakers demanded Obama’s primary focus should have been on security and enforcement.

After meeting their demands, republicans voted against a comprehensive reform bill.

Did republicans “reach across the aisle” during the two years they were in the majority the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency?

Not on your life.

Why would they?

If they weren’t going to do it when they weren’t in power, why would we assume they would when they were?

Earlier this year, Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised Democrats would “not repeat that mistake” of deigning to the opposition on the COVID relief bill.

Yet White House press secretary Jen Psaki said proposed funding for broadband was ultimately reduced to please republicans.

Proposed funding for roads and bridges was reduced to meet senators’ proposals.

Now investments in research and development, supply chains, manufacturing, and small businesses will be shifted to separate legislative packages.

Psaki asserted:

“In our view, this is the art of seeking common ground.”

Do Democrats have a death wish?

Are they trying to lose next year’s mid-terms?

One thing republicans know how to do is dig in their heels even when their positions are abhorrent and counter to what the American people overwhelmingly want from them.

This is a good time to call your House and Senate members at 202-224-3121 and demand they grow spines.

We’re tired of being played for suckers.

Image credit: fabiusmaximus.com

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.