Behind the Scenes Negotiating on Capitol Hill

The US Capitol Building

Between the January 6th Commission and the infrastructure bill, it seems like political reporting these days is full of conjecture about what might happen and less about what actually is happening.

Now, I don’t work on Capitol Hill, but I do have friends who have worked there. I often reach out to them to get their take on what is going on. I also read a lot of political news. Like, a lot.

I see the criticism of the Democrats that they should go it alone and not waste time even trying to negotiate with the Republicans, who, let’s be honest, are not operating in good faith. The majority anyways. We have a small handful that cross over from time to time (Romney, Murkowski) but this Republican party clearly doesn’t want Biden or the Democrats to have ANY wins, no matter the cost.

So as I puzzled on why that might be, I ran across this paragraph in one of the newsletters I get about happenings on Capitol Hill and I wanted to share it with you.

And CHRIS JENNINGS, who was one of the lead negotiators for the Obama White House on health care reform, said the president is not some rube about modern political realities. In fact, he said, Biden probably understands the multi-dimensional elements of legislative negotiations better than most; that sometimes you need to talk with Republicans in order to win over conservative Democrats; that there are psychological and political benefits from the perception that you were not the person or party to abandon the negotiating table.

“He sees the benefits of bipartisanship and the benefits of the process of it,” Jennings told West Wing Playbook. “But I don’t think he is paralyzed by it…. He’s not going to be held hostage if he feels progress is needed.”

The White House and the Senate Democrats have tried to negotiate with the Republicans in good faith. As expected by all of us, those negotiations are going nowhere. The Senate GOP looks as though they will filibuster the January 6th Commission bill, and have come nowhere near where Biden wants them to be when talking about infrastructure. But at the end of the day, it was the Democrats who invited Republicans to the table. It was the Republicans who threw the food against the wall, flipped the table, and made a mess of it all. And the average voter can see that.

The jury is still out as to what moves the White House makes next, and I for one hope they will move forward unilaterally, but I thought you all might appreciate hearing some of the thinking behind why they were negotiating at all.


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Categories: Explainers

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