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A Rare Triumph of US Bipartisanship

The United States has a long history of bipartisan compromises, from the Great Compromise of 1787 to Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society initiative in 1965 to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. In today's highly polarized political environment, the Senate's bipartisan passage of a $1 trillion infrastructure bill offers hope.

NEW HAVEN – After months of negotiations, the United States Senate recently passed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Passed by a vote of 69 to 30, it was an impressive display of bipartisanism at a time of deep polarization. While there are still challenges ahead – in particular, disagreement over the $3.5 trillion budget blueprint that was subsequently passed by the House of Representatives along party lines – the approval of the infrastructure bill offers a useful case study of what makes bipartisan deals possible.

The US has a long history of bipartisanship, from the Great Compromise of 1787 to Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society initiative in 1965 to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. As the late Senator John McCain proved in 2017, when he defended the Affordable Care Act from efforts by his fellow Republicans to repeal it, even one or two defectors from a party can prove transformative.

But such defections are difficult to come by in a deeply two-party system in which the two sides at times seem like they live in a different reality (as is true of climate change or voter fraud). In such a context, crossing the party line can be perceived as a betrayal, threatening transgressors’ position within the party and hurting their re-election chances.

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