Opinion: Bipartisanship gets a summertime boost

Yes, the political arena right now in the United States is filled with stern talk, cheap shots, and wild election year charges.

But there is still room for bipartisanship in the halls of Congress. And there was a lot of room for it for President Biden this summer.

With the signing of two big bills this week, Biden capped off work on a trifecta of bipartisan plans — getting them all through Congress when his job approval ratings were at their worst.

“For all the division in our country, we’re showing ourselves and the world that we can take on the biggest challenges, we can take on the special interests, and that our democracy can deliver for the people of this country,” the President said on Tuesday.

The first of the three bills was on gun violence. Many Democrats grumbled about the details because the bill didn’t address their biggest ideas, like banning assault rifles.

But it did get some things done — and it won the support of enough Senate Republicans to get by a filibuster.

“While my colleagues in Congress and I continue to push for comprehensive legislation to confront gun violence, this bill takes a monumental step forward for all Americans,” said U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta.

Democrats then pressed for action on the CHIPS bill, designed to spur the domestic production of semiconductor chips in the U.S. That also drew solid GOP support in the Senate.

“This historic bill will ensure businesses have a better domestic microchip supply chain,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Suwanee.

The third bipartisan piece was a bill to provide new health benefits to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the definition of bipartisan, getting 342 votes in the House and 85 in the Senate.

“We owe it to veterans to put people over politics,” said U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta.

During the 2020 campaign, Biden was mocked by some Democrats for his belief in bipartisanship, forged during his 36 years in the Senate. Critics said he didn’t understand today’s new brand of partisan politics.

But Biden kept his faith in bipartisan negotiation. It worked last year on infrastructure. And it produced in spades this summer.

Can everything be bipartisan in Congress? Of course not. Just look at this week’s battle over a slimmed-down version of the Build Back Better package.

But Biden and Democrats can honestly look at the voters in the coming weeks and tell them — we worked with the other side, and we got big things done.

Bipartisanship still works.

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