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Edelman: Loyal opposition is one thing, but tyrannical, obstructionist minority is another. Ball is in GOP court. | COMMENTARY

Unity! With the election finally behind us, both Democrats and Republicans are calling for unity. The great irony is that the word means different things to each party.

For the half of the Republican party that still supports former President Trump, it means “forget the past, let bygones be bygones. If you ever even try to hold a trial in the Senate or try to reverse one of Trump’s actions, we will fight you tooth and nail.” This particular segment of the GOP has no appetite for compromise or even for collegiality; they will take every opportunity they can to put personal ambition over both their party and the nation’s welfare.

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Texas Sen. Cruz drew bipartisan criticism for his intemperate, fact-free remark about President Biden’s executive order to rejoin the Paris Accord: “He’s more interested in the views of the citizens of Paris than in the jobs of the citizens of Pittsburgh.” Even as some QAnon radicals realize that they were played for fools by Trump, others like Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert chose fighting words, “I call bullcrap when I hear the Democrats demanding unity.” Last Thursday, before Biden had been in office even two days, Georgia QAnon darling Marjorie Greene unmasked herself and her intentions to disrupt, just because she can, announcing she “just filed articles of impeachment on President Joe Biden.” House minority leader Kevin McCarthy told her to hold off, saying “I just don’t think the timing … is right.” What time is right for the delusional wing of the Republican Party.

Many of those Republicans who have tried to put distance between themselves and their past unflinching support of Trump still play partisan games. Senate Minority Leader McConnell was critical of Biden’s executive orders, saying the president should “remember that he does not owe his election to the far left.” In case anyone needs reminding, Biden’s moderate stance on issues drew fire from the most progressive elements of the Democratic Party.

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Elections have consequences. America voted to give Democrats narrow control of the House, a paper-thin majority in the Senate, and the White House. This gives them the privilege and responsibility of deciding the nation’s legislative agenda for the next two years. While he was majority leader, Sen. McConnell used his power to block bills passed by the Democratic House and bend Senate rules to Republican advantage. He now threatens to use a filibuster to prevent Democrats from eliminating the filibuster.

At present, senators may speak on a bill without any time limits; in order to bring a bill to vote while it’s being filibustered, a 60-member supermajority must first vote to end debate. That gives the minority veto power over almost all legislation in the Senate. With so many critical issues facing the country — the COVID-19 pandemic and stresses on the nation’s health systems, businesses both small and large suffering, massive unemployment, and the existential threat of global warming — the nation cannot afford the Senate to remain paralyzed, as it was under McConnell’s leadership.

If Republicans are at all serious about solving these and other crucial problems we face, they need to work together with the Democratic majority. The GOP must become the loyal opposition, not a tyrannical minority. They can take a step toward bringing the nation together by allowing the Senate to approve the president’s nominations to leadership positions in government.

For Democrats, embracing unity doesn’t mean acceding to Republican demands; neither does it mean ignoring the minority’s objections to their agenda. The Democratic majority must protect the rights of the minority. And Republicans must work together with Democrats to accomplish the nation’s very urgent business. If Democrats learned anything at all from the way the Affordable Care Act was passed without a single Republican vote, it’s that durable, solid legislation requires a measure of consensus and buy-in from the other party. And if Republicans learned anything at all from the past four years, it’s this: failing to do the people’s business is a one-way ticket out of office. If the filibuster is the tool of an obstructive minority, then ignoring legitimate minority concerns is the act of a tyrannical majority.

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President Biden took the first step, reaching out to Republicans. In his inaugural speech he said, “Without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward.” The ball is now in the Republican’s court.

Mitch Edelman, vice chairperson of the Carroll County Democratic Central Committee, writes from Finksburg. His column appears every other Tuesday. Email him at mjemath@gmail.com.

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