National View: Bipartisanship shouldn't be a thing of the past

From the column: "It’s not easy being the black sheep in a herd of detractors that shame bipartisan compromise. ... There are big issues in front of us that will require bipartisan action to move forward."


Bipartisanship is dead, and we have killed it. At least, that’s the conclusion one reaches when listening to pundits, grandstanding politicians, and popular opinion.

But is this really the case? With some major issues before Congress — immigration, climate change, inflation, economic turbulence — lawmakers should not let partisan interest sideline opportunities to get comprehensive policymaking done this year.

We can look to the 117th Congress for an example of how bold lawmakers can cross partisan lines to get things done despite the popular perception of Congress being a den of gridlock and partisanship. Despite one-party control of the White House and Congress, there was a record number of bills passed before the buzzer, filled with Republican and Democratic priorities, thanks to the hard work of members on both sides of the aisle who saw an opportunity to advance their party’s policy priorities — by working in a bipartisan way.

For example, the passage of The Respect for Marriage Act , which repealed the Defense of Marriage Act, recognizes same-sex-marriage and requires all states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. While the House of Representatives came together with an overwhelming bipartisan vote to pass the bill in July, with 47 Republicans joining all Democrats supporting the bill, Senate Republicans maintained non-committal stances to supporting the act, with many citing concerns regarding religious freedom.

However, Sens. Tammy Baldwin, Susan Collins, Kyrsten Sinema and Thom Tillis submitted a bipartisan amendment to the act that resolved the religious freedom concerns of their colleagues, opening the path to passage in the Senate and the bill being signed into law by President Joe Biden.


The same goes for the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act of 2022. Understandably, election reform was a dicey issue that required some lawmakers to take a political risk — given the current climate of polarization around anything related to the Capitol Insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. Nevertheless, a bipartisan group led by Sens. Joe Manchin and Collins released two bills that would separately address issues associated with the certification of election results and the threshold for registering congressional objections. The bill overcame alternative reforms proposed in the House and was ultimately passed.

What commonalities can we take away from these cases when effectively passing legislation in today’s political climate? First, all of the legislation either originated from or led to the development of a bipartisan group, or “gang,” of lawmakers dedicated to championing a given piece of legislation. Second, perceived pressure on lawmakers to act was the catalyst for all these bills. And third, the legislative initiatives succeeded, in part, because of their narrow scope. Leadership support (or at least acceptance) was also crucial to their passage.

As much as some might want to see radical changes, this is not realistic, given the many interests and desires at play. By focusing on what can be practically accomplished given existing political realities, we can better ensure moderate improvements are achieved instead of devoting time and resources to legislation that ends up going nowhere.

It’s not easy being the black sheep in a herd of detractors that shame bipartisan compromise. We founded American Policy Ventures to help give bipartisanship a stronger footing in Washington. We’ve seen firsthand that lawmakers are more willing to walk across the aisle when they feel they will be rewarded by their constituents and peers. Additionally, the impetus is often needed to push them over the ledge, whether from outraged constituents, concerned businesses, international political shifts, or all of the above. Once all these sufficient pressures are combined on lawmakers, they do the work and use legislative tools for effective bipartisanship.

There are big issues in front of us that will require bipartisan action to move forward — everything from the debt ceiling, energy costs, and permitting reform to immigration, crime, and economic opportunity. We can’t afford to continue with partisan politics and polarizing legislation that goes nowhere and helps no one. Instead, we should embrace bipartisanship, compromise, and working within the limits of what can be achieved to address the problems we face together.

Liam deClive-Lowe and Paolo Mastrangelo are co-founders and co-presidents of American Policy Ventures (, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that promotes bipartisanship and works to reduce polarization.

Liam deClive-Lowe.jpeg
Liam deClive-Lowe
Paolo Mastrangelo.jpeg
Paolo Mastrangelo

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