Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
Bipartisanship is a popular buzz word in some political circles. Republicans use the call for “bipartisan solutions” to strong-arm Democrats into voting for bad ideas (like increased militarization and drone surveillance on the border in exchange for a long and complicated path to citizenship).
Democrats tout the quest for bipartisanship as code for “I’m a Democrat who votes with Republicans when it’s politically expedient.”
When the vast majority of American voters want higher taxes on the 1%, universal background checks, bans on assault weapons, immigration reform, a higher minimum wage, good jobs, relief from crushing student and credit card debt, safe roads and bridges, regulatory controls on Wall Street, safe guards on Social Security, legalization of marijuana, and the right to vote, Congress devolves into inaction and gamesmanship.
When real action is needed, but no action is taken, the “bipartisan solutions” rallying cry is revealed as a sham. The threatened filibuster that stopped the universal background check bill is the quintessential example of something that 90% of Americans wanted, but 40 men stopped.
Is bipartisanship a good strategy or just a trap to get Democrats to “punt on the first down”?
In her speech to the State Committee of the Arizona Democratic Party (ADP), Freshman Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema strongly promoted bipartisanship and told precinct committee members and ADP officers about the caucus that she “organized”– the bipartisan United Solutions Caucus. (Arizona Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick is also a member.)
The United Solutions Caucus is made up of Democrats and Republicans who “meet weekly to find shared solutions to our nation’s problems,” Sinema told the Arizona Democrats. Caucus members “put partisanship aside and solve problems.”
If you watch the votes that Sinema, Kirkpatrick, and fellow Congressman Ron Barber make, “bipartisan” means often voting with the Republicans. Last week all three voted to give the Pentagon $640 billion dollars more than the military asked for. All three of them voted against the Back to Work Budget. Is that fiscally responsible in tight budget times? No! In committee, Sinema voted to relax regulatory controls on Wall Street and allow some types of Wall Street trades to be exempt from regulation. Kirkpatrick and Barber are among the Democrats most like to vote Republican.
Perhaps, Sinema, Kirkpatrick, and Barber are fence-sitters because they won their Congressional races with the lowest percentages in Arizona– 48.7%, 48.8%, and 50.4%, respectively. The conventional wisdom is that since these three are in swing districts they have to act like Republicans (at least some of the time) to win re-election. Unfortunately, when Democratic candidates vote like Republicans, they lose support from the Democratic donors and the foot soldiers who helped them win the offices in the first place. When the choice is Republican vs an uninspiring and not-to-be-counted-on Republican-lite “Democrat”, the voter response is: “Phhht…Who cares?” In 2010, when Republicans took over the House of Representatives in the Tea Party revolt, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was one of the few Blue Dog Democrats to win re-election. (It was a squeaker, and some of the credit for Giffords’ win goes to the Libertarian spoiler candidate.)
Important votes are coming up on cuts to food stamps, on increases in the interest rates on student loans, and on immigration reform, will these three stand as strong Democrats on these issues? All we can do is hope.
P.S. In the above video Sinema clearly states that she organized the United Solutions Caucus. Oops… a bit of stretch? On the United Solutions Flickr site and its website, it says this about the group’s founder:
The United Solutions Caucus is a bipartisan group of freshman Congressman Patrick E. Murphy organized with co-chair Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-OH) who are dedicated to finding common ground and addressing the nation’s fiscal issues with bipartisan, long-term solutions. [Oops.]