Wednesday, December 11, 2013
It's been so long that we may not be able to recognize it, but we may have gotten a couple of glimpses of bipartisanship in the U.S. Senate so far this year.
The first sighting was the bipartisan deal on Senate rules reform, which did not go far enough to change the filibuster, but may have done something better: It headed off a partisan battle in the Democratic-controlled Senate and an ugly confrontation with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
The deal may not end dilatory tactics by the minority, but it might make senators less inclined to delay and could make the Senate less of a legislative bottleneck.
The second hopeful sign was the bipartisan proposal on immigration reform, the broad outline of which was rolled out this week. The agreement was reached by four Democrats and four Republicans and has elements that appeal to both parties.
It would provide immediate legal status for 11 million undocumented immigrants, providing they have not committed a crime. And it gives them a path to citizenship after a determination is made that the nation's borders are secure. President Obama praised the agreement, saying it meets most of the principles he has identified.
Curb your enthusiasm: We have been here before.
This is the framework of a bipartisan deal that failed during the Bush administration when many Republicans balked. What has changed is that in two national elections the Republican Party has lost key groups of Hispanic citizens, the fastest growing segment of our population.
Some have criticized the Republicans for caving in or pandering to get votes, but this is how things are supposed to work in a democracy. If both parties want to compete for Hispanic voters, they will have to present policies that appeal to them.
The nation's illogical immigration laws, in which a family can have members living under the same roof as citizens, permanent residents and undocumented aliens, are due for an overhaul.
It's too soon to see if the bipartisan approach will succeed this time, but it is good to see Congress attempting to fix one of the nation's pressing problems. If it works, this is the kind of thing we could get used to.