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On the off-chance that Democrats in Washington and Augusta are looking for a theme song at the moment, we’d suggest that the 1977 Fleetwood Mac classic “Go Your Own Way” might work well for both of them.
In the halls of both federal and state government, Democrats are showing that they have little problem moving forward without their Republican colleagues.
Congressional leadership and the White House didn’t spend a whole lot of time on bipartisan negotiations before turning to the budget reconciliation process in order to pass the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act without needing any Republican support. Democrats are now looking to pass a more than $2 billion infrastructure bill, likely through the reconciliation process as well, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office has reportedly been pursuing a procedural maneuver using the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 that would allow Democrats to push forward with a third major bill this year that could once again sidestep the need for Republican involvement.
Here in Maine, legislative Democrats pushed through a two-year budget this week with a simple majority vote — the first majority biennial budget in over 15 years. The process typically, but not always, involves a two-thirds vote that requires buy-in from the minority party. Democrats’ move this week required some procedural maneuvers of their own, with the Legislature ultimately needing to adjourn in order for the bill to take effect by the beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1.
In both Washington and Augusta, these efforts to go it alone seem to have been fueled at least in part by assumptions that Republicans wouldn’t work with them in good faith, or that the two sides were just too far apart to reach any sort of deal. There is some historical evidence to back up those assumptions, but the more recent history could have provided hope that bipartisan results were achievable, if difficult.
A December deal on federal COVID relief would not have been possible without a group of Republican, Democratic and independent lawmakers getting together and working through some of the political differences that had made compromise elusive for months. Republicans in the State House took a while to take yes for an answer on the recent supplemental budget, but a bipartisan deal did ultimately materialize.
We don’t fault Democrats for being skeptical about negotiations with some of their Republican colleagues, who have at times moved the goalposts. But when skepticism turns into full-blown cynicism, that doesn’t strike us as a great place from which to govern.
Only two Maine legislative Democrats bucked their party this week on the majority budget.
“Just because we can, does not mean we should,” Sen. Bill Diamond of Windham said Tuesday, according to a tweet from a Portland Press Herald reporter. We hope Diamond’s Democratic colleagues, at both the state and federal level, think about that perspective moving forward. And we hope they think about what Sen. Chloe Maxmin of Nobleboro, the other Democrat to vote against the majority budget, said in a Wednesday video explaining her vote.
“I focused on the values of our campaign, and promising a different type of politics,” Maxmin said. “After all my research and all my discussions, this is what I felt like was the right thing to do for our community and who we are in District 13.”
A different type of politics — where lawmakers from both parties honestly engage one another to create balanced and forward-thinking policies that can be embraced by most Americans, and where Democrats and Republicans aren’t trapped in a cycle of political retribution — would be most welcome.
In that vein, we hope state Republicans will take the high road after the majority budget, and for their part, not let it become a reason for legislative inaction. The fact that legislators have agreed to come back for a special session on April 28 is an encouraging sign.
“I’m optimistic that people will have cooler heads, things will calm down, and we will be able to move on and do the work of the people that so desperately needs to be done,” Republican Sen. Paul Davis of Sangerville told the BDN.
There may not be a landslide of goodwill and cooperation at the moment, but we, too, hope to see cooler heads prevail.