On Washington: Roy Moore’s Win and Bob Corker’s Retirement Deliver Blows to Bipartisanship

Mr. Moore would be no such thing. He is much more likely to be in the ranks of unyielding Republicans unwilling to follow leadership, even it means government disruptions and legislative stalemate. He has already demanded the ouster of Mr. McConnell.

Now other Senate and House Republicans must balance any desire to tiptoe toward the political center against the likelihood of a well-funded primary race challenge backed by a coalition of advocates that includes Stephen K. Bannon, a former top adviser to President Trump. Mr. Bannon helped lead the charge against Mr. Strange and is threatening a “reckoning” for those so-called establishment Republicans in Washington who stray from his preferred brand of conservative orthodoxy.

The implications of Mr. Moore’s victory worries some Republicans.

“This might send a signal to empower some of the fringe elements who have no intentions of governing or engaging in a serious dialogue, negotiation or compromise,” said Representative Charlie Dent, Republican of Pennsylvania, who has announced he will not seek re-election next year.

Mr. Dent said “pragmatic Republicans” such as himself and Mr. Corker are being pushed aside in Washington by extreme forces in both parties who diminish the appeal of serving in Congress.

“You don’t want Washington to be just a lot of heavily ideological members,” Mr. Dent said. “When people like Corker and I leave, it is not helpful.”

Democrats feel the same way. Many expressed real disappointment at Mr. Corker’s decision and praised his willingness to work with them on foreign policy and other issues.

“He is a conservative Republican, but I have found him a terrific partner to legislate with on areas where we agree,” said Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee led by Mr. Corker.

“It is harder and harder for those who are willing to risk bipartisanship, craft legislation and do the hard work of compromise to be successful here,” Mr. Coons said. “And that’s a trend we all have to push back against.”

It was just a few weeks ago that discussions between Mr. Trump and Democratic leaders in Congress on spending, the debt limit and immigration spurred renewed talk of real bipartisanship.

Mr. Trump on Wednesday left the door open to negotiations with Democrats on health care, though he also continued to press for repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a position Democrats have ruled out. Even if Democrats and Mr. Trump come to some agreement on health care, it is uncertain that Republicans — battered by their base over a failure to repeal the health care law — would support it despite presidential backing. Mr. Trump’s endorsement did not protect Mr. Strange from a bad loss in the Alabama primary.

And the tax cut proposal unveiled Wednesday, which Republicans see as the life preserver to save them from sinking in a sea of legislative failure, is being crafted on a strictly partisan basis. Mr. Trump had hoped he could entice some Democrats to provide more leeway and avoid another potential embarrassing defeat. But the reaction from top Democrats was strongly negative, and any backing from them seems far-fetched.

Immigration policy, another area where signs of compromise had emerged, could also be a victim of the Alabama primary if Republicans worried about losing power next year decide it is too risky to cross their base on an issue where many Republican voters do not want lawmakers to make concessions.

Democrats see the threat of costly and contentious Republican primaries as potentially playing into their hands by giving their candidates a shot at Republican-held seats. Senate races in Nevada and Arizona are two states where such a scenario could play out.

But in many other Senate and House races where Republican incumbents who are viewed as establishment candidates could face intramural challenges from the right, it seems much more likely that the prevailing Republican would ultimately hold onto the seat in the general election.

In that event, a victory by an outsider candidate like Mr. Moore would only add to the headaches of Republican leaders already struggling to govern and push already rare bipartisanship even further out of reach.

Continue reading the main storySource: New York Times – Politics

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