The U.S. Congress just missed a deadline from U.S. President Joe Biden to pass police-reform legislation by the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death. The New York Times describes the congressional stalemate on the issue as evidence of “the deepening lack of any real bipartisanship in the nation’s capital.” Prominent U.S. news outlets are telling stories about how dimmed hopes for dealmaking across the political aisle imperil Biden’s priorities, which include repairing and modernizing the nation’s infrastructure. Congress can’t even agree on bipartisan commission to investigate the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Are Democrats and Republicans so hopelessly divided that they can’t get anything done together?

Bill Scher, a contributor to The Washington Monthly and RealClearPolitics, thinks it’s still possible for Congress to pass bipartisan legislation on policing, infrastructure, and more. Enough Republicans agree with enough Democrats on enough of the substance, and lawmakers from both parties are still negotiating toward those goals. Republicans may even see self-interest in working across the aisle and not being framed as a bunch of total obstructionists during a national crisis. Scher acknowledges that these efforts may not work. He thinks that failure on infrastructure legislation, in particular, would leave little hope that the parties will be able to collaborate moving forward. But, as he notes, Biden has already signed bipartisan bills into law early in his tenure, just as Barack Obama and Donald Trump did during theirs—and a window for more collaboration between Democrats and Republicans remains open.


Graham Vyse: Is the U.S. Congress capable of cooperating on anything these days?

Bill Scher: I sometimes feel as though the American political press has forgotten how negotiations work. You get an offer, the other side doesn’t like it right away, and immediately the headlines are We’re in a Stalemate! You get a counteroffer, the other side doesn’t like it, and it’s Talks Are on Life Support!

For our subscribers

The Signal is an independent digital magazine, supported exclusively by readers. Join to continue reading this article and for full access to everything we publish.

Subscribe now Already have an account? Sign in