In Search of Bipartisanship the Meaning of Words
spon-sor, n. 1. one who vouches or is responsible for a person or thing.
Forget policy for a second. Democrats and Republicans can’t even agree on the meaning of English words. We’ve seen the evidence in recent weeks as the sides have jousted over the definition of bipartisanship (see here and here and here). And now we’re seeing some lawmakers grappling with an even much simpler concept: that of sponsorship.
(To clarify: When bills are introduced on Capitol Hill, the authors are known as the sponsors, or chief sponsors, who usually try to recruit other lawmakers to sign on in support. These after-the-fact supporters are known as co-sponsors. Bills with a great number of co-sponsors are thought to have a better chance of getting floor time, and therefore have a better chance of becoming law.)
With that in mind, recall a few weeks ago when six Republican co-sponsors of a deficit task-force bill experienced a last-minute change of heart, voting against their own bill after President Obama endorsed it. Funny way to show support for a thing, but they’re not alone. Fast forward to yesterday. Here’s Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) telling The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein that, despite his co-sponsorship of a sweeping health-care reform bill authored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Robert Bennett (R-Utah), he feels the legislation is too comprehensive to actually support.
The Wyden-Bennett bill was simpler, with fewer surprises, and more straightforward. I liked it because it was bipartisan. I wouldn’t have voted for it. But over the past two years, I’ve looked at all these issues and come to the conclusion that the policy skeptics are right. We don’t do comprehensive well in the Senate. It’s not because we don’t do our job well. It’s because we’re such a complicated country.
Which begs the only relevant follow-up question: huh?
Then again, both the deficit task force and Wyden-Bennett bills were bipartisan. Maybe this trend isn’t so confusing after all.