Earlier this week, I started writing about what I think is an unexpected tale of two capital cities, one where it might be the worst of times, one where it might be the best.
The city on my “worst of times” list is Tallahassee, where one-party control somehow has produced total gridlock over something as basic as the budget.
Today, I’m thinking about the “best of times” . . . and (dare I say this?) I’m thinking of Washington, D.C.
Yes, the snow is finally gone. Yes, the Cherry Blossom festival was fabulous this year, from what I hear and see.
But all of us are familiar with the descriptors used, almost automatically, when speaking of the Congress and the president and their persistent state of total warfare.
Gridlock. Dysfunction. Partisan bickering. Failed leadership.
Except . . . well, except that, recently, on two issues of considerable importance to the well-being of some of most vulnerable folks in the United States, the three heads of this self-destructive hydra found a common song to sing.
First, there was Medicare.
On Tuesday of this week, Speaker John Boehner kissed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi . . .
Really. I’m not making that up.
It happened at a celebration of the passage of a bipartisan bill that corrected a long-standing problem in how Medicare compensated doctors for care, moving from a system that encouraged physicians to schedule more visits and do more tests and procedures to one that encourages better overall care.
The bill passed the House with solid bipartisan support. It passed the Senate with solid bipartisan support. And the president hastily signed it into law to avoid having Medicare go over its own fiscal cliff.
The celebration Tuesday came a bit later. Planning, you know.
And there they were, Republicans and Democrats, senators and representatives and White House staffers, enjoying a pleasant spring evening in the Rose Garden, with President Obama serving as congenial host.
To quote Jim Kuhnhenn of the Associated Press, “this was politics through the looking glass – an alternate world of negotiation, conciliation, achievement and, yes, even camaraderie.”
Okay, okay . . . but Boehner kissing Pelosi?
This doesn’t mean that bickering and bullying have been forced out of our nation’s capital. For many, many, many weeks, the Senate has been locked up over the confirmation of Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s nominee to replace Eric Holder as attorney general, even though it is clear that a majority of both parties support her confirmation. Whether out of pure spite or for partisan advantage, one can hardly describe the delay as anything collegial.
Democrats in the Senate recently bit back. For weeks, they blocked passage of the bipartisan (oops, I used that word again) Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (a bill that already had passed the House with large majorities from both parties). They blamed their determined opposition on language allegedly snuck into the bill that imposed more extensive restrictions on funding for abortion than previously was common in federal legislation (by law, federal funds cannot be used to pay for abortions). Senate Republicans retorted that Democrats knew about the language and it wasn’t a major change in federal policy anyway.
The partisan grudge match threatened to derail legislation meant to provide better means of addressing the thousands of victims of human trafficking in this country every year.
But perhaps because so many considered the cause to be worthy (or the press to be negative, one never knows), a bipartisan (again?) group of senators negotiated a compromise, freeing the two combatant parties to join hands instead of locking swords, pass the bill, and send it to the president.
And in the wake of this happy bipartisanship, Loretta Lynch finally will be confirmed.
So there you have it . . . Washington, D.C., the city of the “best of times.”
Through the looking glass indeed!
Next: A Tale of Two Cities: Why Washington is “best” and Tallahassee “worst”