The need for compromise—for making government work for the American people—has been bandied about freely since Republicans won their resounding midterm victories. But it’s not surprising, given the past six years, that the reality has been different. The operative game is that both parties express their desire to compromise, while attempting to maneuver the other party into a position where it looks obstructionist and ineffective.
“Republicans have made detailed assertions that they want bring back the basic rudiments of the deliberative legislative process,” said Jason Grumet, founder and president of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. “I think they are sincere about that, but the question is: Do they have the infrastructure and the finesse to make it happen?”
The Republicans have a powerful incentive to make government work. The shutdown last year has been a drag on Congress’s approval ratings, and they have to prove they can do better. While conservative-leaning states delivered the Senate to Republicans this year, the electoral math becomes more complicated in two years when seven of the party’s incumbents in traditional battleground states will be up for re-election. And congressional Republicans considering presidential campaigns, including Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Florida’s Marco Rubio, have tried to reach beyond their party’s base to address income inequality and revise the criminal justice system, an indication that the ability to cross the aisle will be an asset as the party tries to reverse a trend in which they’ve lost four of the past six races for the White House.