Opinion: Biden and Congress face a clear choice

Voters love the concept of bipartisanship. But deep down, most partisans only want a deal that favors their side.

That won’t work this year. With Republicans running the U.S. House and Democrats leading the U.S. Senate, progress requires compromise.

In his State of the Union Address this week, President Biden made cooperation a main focus — to ‘finish the job’ on his agenda.

“I don’t want to ruin your reputation, but I look forward to working with you,” the President told U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, as the two men shook hands before Congress and the nation.

But it won’t be easy.

One example is immigration.

During a visit to the Mexican border last weekend, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia said, ‘that it’s time to do comprehensive immigration reform.’

But for Georgia Republicans, border security must come first.

“Our country is being invaded by illegal aliens,” said U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, who led GOP lawmakers in repeatedly heckling the President on Tuesday night.

Five years ago, Democrats offered President Donald Trump $25 billion for his border wall in exchange for a 10–12-year pathway to citizenship for younger immigrant ‘Dreamers.’

Biden is offering the same thing — more money for border security, plus action on DACA.

Do you want a deal or not?

Another example is police reform. In the last Congress, negotiations failed, with each side blaming the other for the impasse.

Not much has changed since then, except adding the name of Tyre Nichols of Memphis to the debate.

“This has to stop,” said U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.

Do you want a deal or not?

When it comes to the budget and debt limit, something has to give – as the national debt is now over $31 trillion.

Republicans don’t want higher taxes. Democrats don’t want big domestic spending cuts. Pentagon spending remains a flash point.

Do you want a deal or not?

Back in 1990, President George H.W. Bush sought a budget agreement with Congress to reduce the deficit. To get there, he broke his famous pledge of, ‘Read my lips – no new taxes.’ It left Republicans like Georgia’s Newt Gingrich outraged.

Six years later, when President Bill Clinton wanted welfare reform, he had to accept a number of GOP provisions that badly divided his own party.

We all know President Biden likes deal-making — just look at the bipartisan measures on infrastructure, gun violence, and veterans’ health that he signed in the last Congress.

The path forward is there on all sorts of issues — the choice is up to lawmakers and President Biden.

Do they want a deal or not?

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com