In the United States, the overall political conversation is so skewed to the right that some GOP senators who are quite conservative — including Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Maine — are typically described as “moderates.” Romney, Collins and Murkowski are decidedly conservative, but they are moderate compared to far-right extremists like Rep. Jim Jordan and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Journalist Steve Benen, in an April 15 op-ed for MSNBC’s website, takes a look at moderate Senate Republicans who are “seething” at President Joe Biden and explains why it is wrong to say that they are being unfairly “marginalized” by his administration.
Benen’s op-ed is, in part, a response to Politico’s April 14 report on moderate Republican senators who feel frustrated because they are being “marginalized” by Biden.
“To drive the point home,” Benen explains, “the piece pointed to the White House inviting GOP lawmakers to negotiate on the COVID relief package — only to have Democrats move on without them, and the likelihood that the same thing will happen on the president’s American Jobs Plan, with Democrats likely to ignore the Republicans’ infrastructure plan, too. There’s a lot wrong with this perspective.”
The very fact that Biden is in the White House underscores the Democratic Party’s willingness to compromise. Democrats could have nominated a staunch progressive like Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont of Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; instead, they went with the centrist Biden, who has long had a conservative streak and a liberal streak. As president, Biden has maintained a dialogue with everyone from Sanders to centrists like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
Biden entered the White House on January 20 with a give-and-take perspective, and as Benen points out, even the most moderate Senate Republicans have been unreceptive to his Build Back Better agenda.
Benen notes, “We could start, for example, with the fact that the GOP’s counterproposal on the American Relief Plan was so woeful, it was impossible to take seriously, and it made the Dems’ go-it-alone approach inevitable. Had Republicans come up with a credible offer, they likely could’ve made the relief package much smaller, but they blew it by aiming too low.”
The Republican senators who consider themselves “deal-making moderates” in the Biden era, Benen stresses, are not great at making deals with Democrats. And Benen notes that the “G-10 senators” — the ten Republican senators described as “moderates” in Politico’s article — are quite conservative.
“Given the degree to which these Republicans voted with the Trump White House most of the time, it’s very difficult to believe this contingent has earned the ‘moderate’ label,” Benen argues. “Indeed, that G-10 list reinforces the larger problem of why meaningful, bipartisan deal-making in the Senate is effectively impossible: if you were a member of the Senate Democratic leadership, and you had a choice between passing good bills and making each of these ten conservative senators happy, you’d embrace the budget reconciliation process with both arms, too.”