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Senate Democrats Should Put Republicans to Work

The choice for Senate Republicans is two or more years of sitting on their hands or getting to work with Democrats.

Early this congress, Mitch McConnell pressed for a commitment from Democrats: that they wouldn’t kill the filibuster. He did this for leverage in negotiating the rules for a divided Senate, though the key senators voiced their opposition to removing the filibuster outside of that negotiation. While Democrats have the upper hand thanks to Vice President Harris’ casting vote, the day-to-day of the Senate is evenly divided and McConnell wanted assurance that Republicans would keep a check on a Democratic government.

This standoff is predicated on the idea that Republicans as a bloc, lacking any real policy goals, aren’t so interested in legislating. They can afford to stifle America for years at a time without punishment from their base, who are preoccupied with narrow issues like guns and taxes. There’s little risk to the base because they’re all blindfolded and gagged and drugged (those supplements have to do something, right?) in the right-wing media hideout, being held captive. There is a reason that McConnell framed his determination to undermine Democratic policy as “100% focused.” He doesn’t have anything better to do.

This is key to thwarting the McConnell gambit: give the receptive members of his caucus something better to do! Whether it’s fencepainting, Tom-Sawyer-style, or if it’s finding the key issues that excite senators from places like Nebraska who, while they did help the Republicans pack the Supreme Court, still believe in America. Give them something better than what McConnell offers them, which is to do a fat lot of nothing, whether they hold the majority or not.

In the recent House vote on the 6 January commission, 17% of Republicans voted for sanity. That would translate to about 8 Republicans in the Senate, assuming similar levels of support for reality. That would be enough to see some bipartisanship, if the Democrats are prepared to cultivate and reward it. But they have to find their colleagues intriguing legislation to push. Things that will get them reelected against Democratic challengers, even.

They won’t switch parties, and the agenda will not steamroll ahead even with their support, but you can craft a manageable bipartisan vote on enough legislation this way. Yes, you may need to employ some dependency-ordering algorithms from open source projects to construct the legislative calendar so that all bets are paid in the right order, but it is doable.

But the alternative is to continue to deal with the Republicans’ cowardly leaders, who do not care about America’s fate. Better to see those who do get reelected and grow in prominence than to try to fight away the dumb beasts only to have them get dumber and dumber each time their primary voters respawn them.

Many Senate Republicans do not want to waste the next year or so. They want to be productive. Their non-base constituents want them to be, too. They want to spend their time wisely, getting things done that will benefit their states and the nation. The Democrats can offer them that opportunity, through bipartisan bill-crafting.

Certain policies will be harder to craft with Republican support in mind. Those policies are vital to the health and welfare and security of our nation, but the base has been convinced that reasonable measures would destroy the fabric of space-time. There’s a reason why a no-duh policy like negotiating Medicare drug prices hasn’t been passed, despite the fact that the federal government, no less than Donald John Trump’s administration, negotiated prices and purchases for four separate vaccines.

That’s the same pharma lobby that brought us the opioid epidemic that has killed thousands of Americans and ruined families and lives. Who stole away parents and siblings and children from America. Those same lobbyists are the ones who keep drug prices artificially high. Hooray!

And McConnell would rather block any Democratic action than do something about it. And some Democratic senators would rather not give America a fair deal on drugs, because they get campaign funds from those pharma companies. But if some of those Nebraska Republican senators want to, they might be able to push a bill over the top.

There are other issues like that. They aren’t the major priorities, but if the Senate can stop listening to the hypnotic drone of the likes of McConnell, if enough Republican senators want to get some things done, tomorrow we can do far more together than we could ever do with people like McConnell dividing us.

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