Last week, the House approved a plan to defund the Affordable Care Act as part of a misguided government-shutdown scheme. Immediately thereafter, GOP officials had one adjective in mind.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) boasted, “It wasn’t just a group of Republicans. It was a bipartisan vote.” Soon after, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) hailed the “strong bipartisan majority” that “voted to defund Obamacare.”
I put together this chart in the hopes of clarifying matters a bit. In all, the spending bill passed with 230 votes – 228 Republicans and 2 conservative Democrats (both of whom voted against the Affordable Care Act three years ago). Meanwhile, 189 House members voted against it – 188 Democrats and one Republican. (On the image, it might look like only two columns, but there are actually four. The cross-over votes barely register.)
As a technical matter, was support for the bill “bipartisan”? Perhaps, though by the same reasoning, opposition to the bill was also bipartisan.
That said, if you look at this chart and see a “strong bipartisan majority,” you’re either (a) lying; (b) blind; or (c) so far gone that you no longer know what those words even mean.
This came up quite a bit during the Bush/Cheney era, especially in the first term. The Republican White House would propose something, congressional Republicans would quickly embrace the idea, and Zell Miller, a conservative Democrat from Georgia, would join them. At that point, the president’s various press secretaries would trumpet the “bipartisan” support Bush’s agenda enjoyed.
It was silly at the time. It’s even worse now.