An editorial in this morning’s Wheeling Intelligencer tells us that “Bipartisanship Is Not Dead”:
Some political scientists say Congress has become a cesspool of partisan politics. Democrats and Republicans view every issue strictly from their party leaders’ viewpoints, it is said. Constituents’ best interests take a back seat.
Not when U.S. Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, are involved.
Yes, and for proof, the editorial offers us the recently-enacted ACE Kids Act:
Last week, President Donald Trump signed the ACE Kids Act, a bipartisan bill by Brown and Portman. It is intended to improve health care for children in low-income families — those enrolled in the Medicaid program. Specifically, the measure is aimed at children with complex medical conditions ranging from cancer to heart disease.
Giving credit where credit isn’t due
If you go to Congress.gov you will see that Senate Bill 317 (ACE Kids Act of 2019) was sponsored by Chuck Grassley (R - IA) and that 15 senators are listed as cosponsors. Rob Portman is listed as a cosponsor but not as an original sponsor and Sherrod Brown is nowhere on the list. How then is this a "bipartisan bill by Brown and Portman"? It clearly isn't.
The Intelligencer further explains:
Much of the news coverage of Congress focuses on partisan battles. But bills passed on voice votes, including some important ones, are more common than sometimes is recognized. That was the case with the ACE Kids Act. It flew through both the House of Representatives and the Senate quickly, with approval coming through voice votes.
But all that goes away when something of obvious importance — in this case, helping children in low-income families — comes along. Bravo to Brown and Portman!
Those caring Republicans!
Would you want to be on record as having opposed a bill to help the health care of low-income children? No wonder it “flew” with a voice vote. (Voice votes would also give some senators plausible deniability if confronted by conservative voters.) Contrast this vote, however, with the previous two congresses controlled by Republicans in which the ACE Kids Acts (both of which were sponsored by Grassley) never got out of the Republican-controlled committee. Because it never got to the floor, Republicans, who certainly had the votes to pass the bill were never required to go on record as either being for or against the bill. (See here and here.)
My hunch is that Senate Republicans didn’t suddenly develop compassion for the health care of low-income families. Rather, it was the new Democratic-controlled House that forced a vote on this bill. Sorry, Intelligencer -- the bill’s “obvious importance” didn't get the bill passed (it could have easily passed anytime in the previous four years), it was the Democrats forcing a vote in the House which left very few alternatives for Republicans other than to appear compassionate.
And so, we have yet another Intelligencer editorial which clearly misrepresents what happened – Portman and Brown had little or nothing to do with the passage of this legislation. Additionally, despite their new-found support for this bill with “obvious importance,” the editorial is silent on why this bill was not passed in either of the previous two congresses.