Senate Republican leaders held a Capitol Hill press conference yesterday and did their very best to pretend they're not to blame for their own debt-ceiling crisis. Texas Sen. John Cornyn summarized the issue this way:
"Well, this impending train wreck, which is the Democratic agenda, is entirely predictable, and it's entirely of their own making. [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell has told them since July that because they have refused to work with us on a bipartisan basis, and they're determined to spend as much as another $5.5 trillion in borrowed money, that there needs to be some accountability."
There was no shortage of errors over the course of these two sentences. The idea that Democrats created the GOP's debt-ceiling crisis is more than a little bonkers. The claim that Democrats intend to spend "another $5.5 trillion in borrowed money" is just demonstrably ridiculous, as the Texas Republican almost certainly knows.
What's more, the idea that the GOP crashing the economy on purpose represents some kind of "accountability" seems incredibly odd.
But what stood out for me was Cornyn's claim that Democrats have "refused" to work with Republicans "on a bipartisan basis."
Right off the bat, there was a degree of irony to the partisan whining: In recent years, whenever the GOP held power, Republican leaders' interest in bipartisan governing did not exist. For some mysterious reason, the party only seems to rediscover the benefits of consensus-building when it finds itself in the minority. It's quite a coincidence.
Just as importantly, at the heart of the GOP's complaints is the fact that Democrats are pursuing — or at least trying to pursue — much of President Joe Biden's domestic agenda through a reconciliation process that excludes Republicans. And while GOP senators are using this as the basis for angry complaints, it was GOP senators who also recommended Democrats pursue this course of action.
For example, Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of the Senate Republican leadership, told Fox News in early April, "My advice to the White House has been, take that bipartisan win, do this in a more traditional infrastructure way, and then if you want to force the rest of the package on Republicans in the Congress and the country, you can certainly do that."
Now that Democrats are following this precise model, GOP senators claim to be outraged.
But perhaps the most important thing about Cornyn's claim that Democrats have "refused" to work with Republicans "on a bipartisan basis" is that it's spectacularly wrong.
In fact, right around the time Senate GOP leaders were decrying the Democrats' lack of interest in bipartisan policymaking, the bipartisan talks over policing reforms were collapsing — because Republicans kept rejecting Democratic offers.
It was a familiar dynamic. Democrats tried to strike a bipartisan deal on voting rights, and Republicans said no. Democrats tried to strike a bipartisan deal on immigration, and Republicans said no. Democrats tried to strike a bipartisan deal on an independent Jan. 6 commission, and Republicans said no. Democrats tried to strike a bipartisan deal on a Covid-relief package, and Republicans said no.
Who's "refusing" to work "on a bipartisan basis"?