Putting Aside Our Differences: Bipartisan Efforts That Actually Worked

Midterms are coming, and right now, everything is a competition. Mudslinging and political campaigning is everywhere we turn, and much of it is overwhelmingly negative and divisive. There are two definitive sides in the US right now: the red and the blue, and both spend a lot of time convincing the public that the other side is the bad one. But in a time where government shutdowns and congressional stalemates have practically become the norm, it’s important to remember that we are all on the same team. Red or blue, Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, we are all fighting for what we think is best, and the truth is that we accomplish the most when we work together.

It’s important to note that bipartisanship has pretty much always been the exception, rather than the norm in American history. But here are a few examples of great things that the US government has achieved once they decided to work with, instead of against, their political opponents.

Civil Rights Act – 1964

The fight for equal rights in America has been a long and incredibly bitter one, and while it is a fight that continues to this day, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a major step toward racial equality. The fight was not an easy one, and passing the bill through the House required shenanigans on the part of pro-civil-rights lobbyists that included rousing Congressmen from the middle of a hot bath or a crowded bar to stop segregationists from passing a vote without them. But the bill finally passed in the House, and on June 19, 1964 in the Senate, 27 Republicans took their role as the ‘party of Lincoln’ seriously, and joined 46 Democrats for a 73-27 vote that changed history.

Tax Reform Act – 1986

When President Ronald Reagan found himself at the helm of a government that had a Republican-majority Senate and a Democrat-dominated House, it seemed like a situation that would inevitably lead to stalemates, gridlock, and little to no progress. But reforming the tax code had benefits for both liberals and conservatives, so they teamed up to accomplish their individual goals, and together they achieved the biggest and most substantial tax overhaul in American history.

Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – 2010

Since 1994, LGBTQ people could not serve openly in the US military under a Clinton-era policy called ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’. The policy was overturned by the House (250-175) and the Senate (65-31) in 2010. The bill failed again and again, due to the partisan Congress, but in the end, it took efforts from both major parties to gain the votes needed to push it through. It was hardly bipartisan, as most Republicans openly opposed repealing the policy, but without the conservatives who finally helped to end the filibuster, and the eight Republicans who broke from their party and voted to repeal, the measure would not have passed.

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act – 2013

The VAWA was originally passed in 1994, when the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues – a bipartisan group – passed legislation that helped to strengthen support and response times by law enforcement in regards to domestic abuse and violence. The Act was reauthorized twice by Congress until it failed to do so in 2012, but in 2013, the VAWA was reauthorized again with unanimous support from Democrats and majority support from Republicans, which was in large part due to the help of every single woman in the Senate, regardless of their political affiliations.

Every Student Succeeds Act – 2015

George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was a popular piece of educational reform legislation at the time it was passed, and it itself was authored by two Republicans and one Democrat, and garnered wide support on both sides of the aisle. But No Child Left Behind left some serious gaps, and was hotly debated for almost the entire lifetime of the legislation. In 2015, Patty Murray (D-WA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) worked together as a team to propose the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which gave more control back to states regarding teacher evaluations and the standards of education that schools demanded of their students. 40 Republicans and 44 Democrats voted yea to pass the bill.

Attempted Repeal of the Affordable Care Act – 2017

One of Trump’s biggest campaign promises in 2016 – one of the biggest campaign promises of any Republican politician in 2016, really – was to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is often referred to. Soon after the election turned out to be in Republicans’ favor, attempts began to repeal the Obama administration’s health care laws. In July of 2017, the Senate voted on whether to repeal, and the vote seemed strictly split down party lines until a few notable Republican party members, including Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and the late John McCain stood up and voted no. In a memorable speech that will inevitably go down in history, McCain spoke about the dire need to work together in government. “Let’s trust each other,” he pleaded with his fellow senators. “We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle.”

Opioid Crisis Response Act – 2018

Although it often seems now that nothing ever gets done in Congress, that our elected officials spend more time arguing and spitting mean-spirited jabs at one another, occasionally legislation gets passed which lets a bit of hope shine through the doom and gloom. On October 3, 2018, the Senate voted an astounding 98 to 1 in favor of passing a bill to combat the opioid crisis currently sweeping our nation. Among other things, the bill creates grants and funding directed toward helping recovering addicts rebuild their lives, and allows up to 30 days of rehab treatment to be covered under Medicaid. Congress may be more divided than it’s ever been, but it’s nice to see that they are still capable of teaming up and enacting change.


Photo credits: CNN, NYTimes, CBS News, MSNBC, US News, Time, Pharmacy is Right for Me

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