It’s no secret that Washington has, over the years, been plagued by divisive partisanship on both sides of the aisle, keeping needed legislation from being passed and halting debate on the important matters of the people. While political differences and debate are part of what makes this country a strong democracy, when partisanship trumps civil discourse it can poison the policies and laws that government is supposed to enact.
But there have been times in American political history when two sides have come together in the interest of the country and the people. In 1787, The Great Compromise established the House and the Senate so that both the smaller states in the union and the larger, more populous states could have equal representation. Since then, there has been the 1964 Civil Rights Act which gave equal rights to all races, Social Security and Welfare Reform, and the McCain-Feingold Act which revised the use of campaign contributions. In all of these cases politicians have put aside their partisan differences to find common ground and enact positive change to the American political landscape.
Recently, the so-called “Gang of 14” stopped a potential disaster from occurring in Congress in 2004. With the majority in Congress, Republicans threatened Democrats with a “nuclear option” that would forbid the use of filibustering judicial nominations. Democrats, unhappy with then President George W. Bush’s more conservative choices for the bench, refused to stop their filibusters of the nominees. It took 14 Congressional leaders, seven on each side, to broker a deal that took the nuclear option off the table and allowed the judicial reviews to continue.
In addition, President Barack Obama took a page from President Lincoln’s “Team of Rivals” presidency by appointing two of his democratic presidential rivals and a Republican Congressman to his administration; President Obama also kept President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on to maintain continuity for American forces fighting abroad.
The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) is a non-profit organization that seeks to continue the tradition of these great moments in compromise by encouraging civil, respectable political discourse between the political parties. Founded in 2007 by Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell, BPC is currently focused on health care, energy, national and homeland security, transportation and the economy.