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Bipartisanship

Manchin backs up his words with deeds

For months, Americans’ pleas for Congress to give us more financial help in coping with COVID-19 have fallen on political ears — much worse than merely deaf ones — in Washington.

Exactly why lawmakers were unable to agree on a second CARES Act is open to debate. Republican loyalists believe the problem with Democrat leaders’ chicanery. Democrats contend the problem was just the opposite of that.

That tells us much about the matter, of course. It was a classic political standoff, with politicians avoiding blame by faulting their opponents — while the American people continued to suffer.

Then, about two weeks ago, three U.S. senators — Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — decided they had enough. They formed a coalition of a couple of dozen senators and representatives from both parties and proposed a new $908 billion relief bill.

They made it clear they were sick and tired of the issue being used as a political football and that it was time for Congress to put the people first.

Seldom during the past several days have the names Manchin, Collins and Murkowski been in the news. Other, more well-known politicians have taken the spotlight. All are eager to get credit for the new package of relief funding.

Without majorities in both chambers of Congress, the bill would never have been passed. But the bottom line — disturbing yet encouraging at the same time — is that it took the three courageous senators to stand up to both their parties and get the ball rolling.

It is disturbing that it took so long for lawmakers to put politics aside. It is encouraging, however, that the MCM triumvirate prevailed.

What now? You need not ask. Once the three centrists got the ball rolling, politicians both Democrat and Republican resumed their partisan jockeying for position. Members of the centrist coalition had emphasized none of them was entirely happy with the $908 billion plan — but they added that in the spirit of compromise, they all supported it.

Beginning Jan. 20, Democrat Joe Biden will sit in the Oval Office as president. Democrats continue to control the House of Representatives. Assuming a special election for senators from Georgia goes their way, Republicans will maintain their hold on the Senate. The federal government will be divided.

And unless their fellow lawmakers listen to Manchin, Collins, Murkowski and other realists, gridlock will persist in Washington. Only Biden, with the vast authority Congress has ceded to the executive branch during the past half-century, will be able to get things done.

During his entire time in the Senate, Manchin has pleaded for bipartisanship. He has backed his words with deeds, sometimes voting with Democrats on important issues and sometimes supporting Republicans. He is right in believing that neither side is right — or wrong — all of the time. He recognizes that politics truly must be the art of compromise.

Thanks to that attitude, Americans are going to get more help coping with the epidemic. Now, if we could just beat that other disease: politics.

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