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Washington is convulsed with fear and loathing | ticker VIEWS



So, you thought that the last-minute bipartisan breakthrough in the Senate last week to buy some time to deal in December with the debt limit crisis was a good sign? That when the US again comes to the edge of the abyss the lawmakers will have practiced their “get-along” muscles and know what to do?

Forget it.

Bruce Wolpe from the US Studies Centre

Washington is convulsed with fear and loathing.  In the perverted hyper-partisan environment that suffuses the Capitol – both the House and the Senate – the response to working together is … never to work together again.

Let’s start with the loathing first

The Senate Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell, hates the Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer. It’s mutual.  Right after the vote to avoid default, Schumer took the floor and said the Republicans had played a “dangerous and risky partisan game” and that it was the Democrats who could “pull our country back from the cliff’s edge that Republicans tried to push us over.” McConnell, suffused with anger, took his rage to the President, and wrote Biden:

“Senator Schumer exploded in a rant so partisan, angry and corrosive that even Democratic Senators were visibly embarrassed …This childish behavior only further alienated the Republican members who helped facilitate” the temporary fix to the debt limit.

In the House…

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has zero respect for Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. They don’t talk to each other. Even worse:  McCarthy said in August that, if and when Republicans win the House and Pelosi turns the gavel over to him, “It will be hard not to hit her.”  Pelosi has called McCarthy a “moron” over his hostility to wearing masks to curb Covid.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Former President Trump hates a lot of people – especially those Republicans who turned on him for refusing to support Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. 

Most especially, Trump hates Mitch McConnell, and embroiders his rhetoric with a few choice words:  

Weak. Pathetic. Third rate. A stone-cold loser. A dumb son of a bitch. A dour, sullen political hack, bereft of any wisdom or skill.

Former U.S President Donald Trump

This relationship is not going to improve.

Democrats are far from united on how to finally close out the provisions of Biden’s social policy and climate agenda.  Senator Joe Manchin is a major holdout so far.  He does not believe that “we should turn our society into an entitlement society.” To which Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist Senator, said:

“Is protecting working families and cutting childhood poverty an entitlement? Perhaps most importantly, does Senator Manchin not believe what the scientists are telling us, that we face an existential threat regarding climate change?”

Let’s get to the fear bit

For the Republicans, Trump’s loathing of his enemies – or who he sees as enemies – means that Republicans are afraid of crossing him, because he has the power to destroy them.  Even those who deeply want to run in 2024 – former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – know they can’t run if Trump is in, that he will crush them to take the nomination.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: A large group of pro-Trump protesters stand on the East steps of the Capitol Building after storming its grounds on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. A pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, breaking windows and clashing with police officers. Trump supporters gathered in the nation’s capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

Republicans in the House know that if they make any moves to support the work of the Select Committee investigating the deadly insurrection of January 6, Trump will endorse other Republicans to defeat them in pre-selection for Congress next year. He is already going after the nine Republicans who supported his impeachment for violating his oath of office under the Constitution.

For the Democrats…

If they refuse to agree to agree on the Biden program, the president’s first term will be over this year.

They have in their hands – today – the elements of a wide-ranging legislative agenda that will represent the most significant contributions to improving health, education, income security, and children, since Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s and FDR in the 1930s. Plus massive work on climate change.

U.S President Joe Biden

Unity requires compromise. A loss of three votes in the House, and one in the Senate, dooms the bill.

If there is failure to reach a compromise that brings them all in, the Democrats go into next year’s midterm elections with virtually nothing – except rhetoric and promises – to offer to their voters.

Democrats fear they will lose their majorities in the House and Senate.

And guess what? They will.

And even though Democrats understand the consequences, that fear has not concentrated their efforts enough to agree on the Biden legislation and enact it into law.

And those that survive the purge by the voters will loathe being in Congress without any power.

Bruce Wolpe is a Ticker News US political contributor. He’s a Senior Fellow at the US Studies Centre and has worked with Democrats in Congress during President Barack Obama's first term, and on the staff of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. He has also served as the former PM's chief of staff.

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