Broad bipartisanship in congress seems like a thing of yesteryear. Democrats and Republicans have drawn their lines—some crazier than others—and apparently a lot of constituents are in to their representatives standing their ground at all costs. It feels like reasonable legislation is virtually impossible to pass—representatives often pull insane interpretations out of their asses to rationalize not funding the federal government, taking 500 days since the expiration of the Violence Against Women Act to finally reauthorize it, blocking campaign funding transparency, and rejecting more rigorous background checks on gun purchases.
So that’s why it’s been pleasantly surprising to see some recent bipartisan behavior. While an arguably more rigorous bill to address sexual harassment and assault in the military failed to pass, the Senate unanimously passed another bill to change to military policies. Specifically, the legislation criminalizes retaliation against those who report assault, and basically disallows accused persons from using good “military character”—a nebulous ideas about how professional/reliable a solider is based on his or her service record—as an element of defense in court-martial proceedings.
A sponsor of the bill, Senator Claire McCaskill, summarized the good solider defense as “the ridiculous notion that how well one flies a plane should have anything to do with whether they committed a crime.” Appropriate as this bill sounds, it is surprising that even the most pro-military-traditions Senators voted in its favor. Proof that Senators of all inclinations can be reasonable when they want to be; the bill is expected to likewise pass in the House.
Another bill passed both chambers Wednesday to shift some funding from presidential conventions to pediatric medical research programs. Kind of a random set of variables, but compelling. I guess it's hard to turn down sick babies. (Although it means parties will likely seek more private donations, which could amount to more campaign ads blowing up on our Pandora sessions.) Making sexual assault trials more fair for victims? Funding anything, ever?
We can only hope that constituents in Oklahoma and Alabama don’t catch wind of what their elected officials are doing, or there could be hell to pay.