Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Bipartisanship exists on Capitol Hill if you know where to look

August 22, 2017James Rowley & Roxana Tiron

This analysis was first available to Bloomberg Government subscribers

Despite bipartisanship being in short supply in the 115th Congress, lawmakers heeded the oft-ignored maxim that politics should stop at the water’s edge, approving new sanctions against Russia and Iran and in drafting defense and intelligence authorizations.

A newly enacted measure (Public Law 115-44) that requires President Donald Trump to consult Congress before easing economic sanctions against Russia and imposes new measures against Iran for its ballistic-missile testing is one of a few noteworthy bipartisan achievements in a session so far marked by little consensus.

A law like that doesn’t have to be the exception, Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), one of the co-chairs of the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus, said in an interview. “I really see an opportunity for us to come together” on other issues.

“What we’ve got to do is change the culture and actually sit down and talk to people again and get to know them. Once you have a relationship you can then start to function in a positive way,” he said.

Concern that Trump, whose campaign is under investigation by a Justice Department special counsel for possible collusion with Moscow’s interference with last year’s election, would lift sanctions against Russia prompted Congress to honor the injunction the late Sen. Arthur Vandenberg (R-Mich.) issued at the start of the Cold War.

“We must stop partisan politics at the water’s edge,” said Vandenberg, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He helped forge the bipartisan consensus for containing the Soviet Union and the spread of communism during Harry Truman’s presidency.

With the Moscow sanctions vote, “Democrats were anxious to demonstrate their opposition to Trump’s policies and their concern about Russian meddling in the election,” said Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory University. “Republicans felt a need to distance themselves from Trump and his unwillingness to say anything critical” of Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.

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