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Press: Divided government begins in Georgia

Press: Divided government begins in Georgia
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You have to tip your hat to congressional Republicans. With no shame, they can change their position faster than any Turkish belly dancer.

Before Nov. 3, their message was: “United Government!” In order to advance the Trump agenda, they argued, we need to hold onto the White House, maintain control of the Senate, and win back the House of Representatives. But, once it was clear that Joe Biden had crushed Donald TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger, Gaetz get in back-and-forth on Twitter over Cheney vote READ: Liz Cheney's speech on the House floor Cheney in defiant floor speech: Trump on 'crusade to undermine our democracy' MORE in both the popular vote and the electoral vote, they suddenly changed their tune. Their new message is: “Divided Government!” Having lost the House and the White House, the only way to save the union, they now say, is for Republicans to lock in control of the Senate by winning two runoffs in Georgia on Jan. 5.

To be fair, divided government — where one major party controls the executive branch and the other controls one or both houses of the legislative branch — is not all bad. Since 1980, in fact, we’ve had divided government more often than not: 28 out of 40 years. Is it, therefore, the solution? Does it work? Based on recent history, the only honest answer is: Sometimes yes, sometimes not.

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But one thing is clear: Divided government will NEVER work as long as Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate panel deadlocks in vote on sweeping elections bill Senate descends into hours-long fight over elections bill Republican governor of Arkansas says 'Trump is dividing our party' MORE is Senate majority leader.

Here’s the key: Divided government works when both parties are willing to cooperate to get things done. The classic example is 2000, when the Senate split 50/50 and there were, in effect, two Senate leaders: Democrat Tom Daschle and Republican Trent Lott. As long as former Vice President Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreHawaii legislature passes bill to implement automatic voter registration Libertarians elected Biden Gore believes China will 'overachieve' on emissions goal MORE was still president of the Senate, Daschle was Senate Majority Leader. Once Dick Cheney was sworn in as vice president, Lott assumed the majority Leader post. But both Daschle and Lott continued to work together — making committee assignments, hammering out legislative compromises, scheduling votes — and their time of shared leadership is considered one of the most successful in modern times.

That will never work under McConnell. As majority leader, his goal has never been to get things done; it’s just the opposite: to stand in the way of progress. He doesn’t accomplish things, he blocks things. He gleefully describes himself as “The Grim Reaper.” He refuses to reach across the aisle. He won’t allow debate or schedule a vote on any legislation or appointment unless he can win it with Republican votes only.

McConnell’s done nothing on COVID-19, nothing on a second stimulus, nothing to help small businesses or millions of out-of-work Americans. The idea that he’ll develop a good working relationship with President BidenJoe BidenKinzinger, Gaetz get in back-and-forth on Twitter over Cheney vote Cheney in defiant floor speech: Trump on 'crusade to undermine our democracy' US officials testify on domestic terrorism in wake of Capitol attack MORE is absurd. He still hasn’t even acknowledged Biden as the president-elect. McConnell can’t wait to treat Biden with the same disdain he treated Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden expected to tap Rahm Emanuel for Japan ambassador Baltimore businessman enters Maryland governor race Press: Let us now praise Liz Cheney MORE, declaring in October 2010: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

That’s why everything depends on what happens in Georgia on Jan. 5. The only hope for “divided government” to work today is for Georgia Democrats to capitalize on their Nov. 3 upset for Joe Biden by dumping both Sens. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerGeorgia Republican secretary of state hits Loeffler as 'weak,' 'fake Trumper' Loeffler asks Georgia attorney general to investigate Raffensperger over 2020 election Former Rep. Doug Collins won't enter Georgia Senate race MORE and David PerdueDavid PerdueGeorgia Republican secretary of state hits Loeffler as 'weak,' 'fake Trumper' Warnock raises nearly M since January victory Georgia's top election official looks to shake political drama MORE and sending the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to Washington.

Today, the Senate lineup stands at 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats. Adding Ossoff and Warnock will make it 50/50, making Sen. Charles  Schumer (D-N.Y.) the senior leader and forcing McConnell to work with Democrats. It boils down to this: With Georgia’s two Senate seats, there’s nothing Joe Biden can’t accomplish; without them, he may not be able to accomplish anything at all.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”