Opinion: Compromise can still work on Capitol Hill

We should not gloss over the legislative achievements of the past month in Congress, all made possible by large bipartisan majorities. It’s a fresh reminder that compromise can still happen in the U.S. House and Senate, even in today’s extremely political environment.

Overcoming months of gridlock, GOP dysfunction in the U.S. House, and simple election-year politics, Congress has churned out government funding bills, a foreign intelligence surveillance measure, aid for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan, plus a plan that could force the sale of the TikTok social media app.

“That’s the way Congress should work,” said U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia.

“There is no substitute for American leadership in the world,” said Sen. Raphael Warnock as the Senate passed a $95 billion foreign aid package, 79-18.

But not lost on Democrats was how long it took for Speaker Johnson to choose bipartisanship. He spent months sidestepping a House vote on Ukraine, dogged by GOP rebels who threatened to oust him from his post.

“It was a difficult path,” President Biden said after he signed the foreign aid package into law. “It should have been easier, and it should have gotten there sooner.”

But it got done. “I know that history is going to judge this well,” Speaker Johnson said. “It was the right thing to do.”

It’s important to note that when the House Speaker finally stood up to U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, and members of the House Freedom Caucus, he ran them over with a bipartisan steamroller. The overwhelming votes made Greene’s threats of a GOP leadership shakeup look empty and weak.

At the same time, it should also be noted that Congress missed a chance to do something about border security — mainly because most Republicans balked at compromise.

In February, key Senators produced a bipartisan border deal skewed in the GOP’s favor. But it was torpedoed by Donald Trump, Republican Senators, and by Speaker Johnson.

Would it have fixed everything? Of course not. But that plan would have helped — and doing nothing was a missed opportunity.

Oddly enough, that failure gave Democrats a small political lifeline, as they can readily say they were eager to accept a border deal, but Republicans killed it.

“We got Ukraine done,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who helped negotiate the failed border package. “And we improved our position dramatically on the issue that we were most vulnerable on in the election — immigration.”

At some point, Congress will have to cut a deal on border security and immigration. The road map is there — it involves bipartisanship and compromise. But they must choose that path.

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