Opinion

Unity pledges on Day 1, sharp attacks on Day 2

Inauguration Day vows from Iowa Republicans to find common ground with Biden administration quickly fall apart

President Joe Biden delivers his inaugural address Jan. 20 on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Lo
President Joe Biden delivers his inaugural address Jan. 20 on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Los Angeles Times)

The Inauguration Day pledges were plentiful, filled with bipartisan spirit.

By the next day, the gloves were off again.

Hey, a lot of us wanted to get back to politics as usual, right? Be careful what you wish for.

Many of the Republicans in Iowa’s congressional delegation marked the inauguration of President Joe Biden this past week with pledges to work across the political divide, echoing Biden’s calls for unity.

For a while now, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley has provided assurances that he’ll work with Biden where they can find agreement. He repeated as much in a statement on Inauguration Day, though with a caveat.

“As I have with every president, I will seek to find common ground with President Biden wherever possible, but I will strongly oppose policies that I think are not good for Iowa and all Americans based on input I receive from Iowans,” Grassley said.

U.S. Reps. Ashley Hinson and Mariannette Miller-Meeks were among 17 freshman House Republicans who signed a letter to Biden in which they pledged to avoid partisan gridlock and help the administration address important issues like the COVID-19 pandemic response, infrastructure and the economy.

“I stand ready to find common ground with the Biden Administration where possible so that we can help Iowans & Americans,” Hinson tweeted in part on Inauguration Day.

Here’s hoping you enjoyed that kumbaya spirit while it lasted, Iowa.

The next day, Grassley tweeted at Biden about violent protests in the Pacific Northwest, using an oft-used accusation that liberals only speak out against violence instigated by far right groups, and not against incidents involving far left groups.

On Friday, Grassley was after Biden again, suggesting the president should tell Senate Democrats to stop the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump over his role in the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol that left five dead, including a Capitol Police officer.

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Hinson posted on her Facebook page a willingness to find common ground with the Biden administration, but that post included a doozy of a “Yeah, but.”

“But you better believe I will serve as a check on the ultra-liberal agenda I expect from the Biden Administration and Democrats in Congress,” the post on Hinson’s page says.

Now, this is not to suggest that Republicans alone bear the responsibility for efforts to work across the political divide. Biden and Democrats in the House and Senate are now the agenda-setters. It is also on them to work with Republicans, if unity is indeed the goal.

Nor is this to say that Republicans must go along with every proposal from the Biden administration in order for the rest of us to determine they have fulfilled their pledges to find common ground.

But neither will Republicans digging in their legislative heels be acceptable if they want to be seen as unifiers. Pledging to work across the aisle does not mean, in practice, waiting until the Democrats propose conservative policy. It takes two to tango, and all that.

During his weekly call with Iowa reporters, Grassley this past week said he could see himself working with the Biden administration on issues like lowering prescription drug prices, criminal justice reform, trade and biofuels.

“I’m hopeful that there’s room for bipartisan cooperation on a whole range of issues,” Grassley said. “I often say this town should be about policy, not personality. So regardless of who someone supported in the election, I think there’s an opportunity to look ahead and work together for the good of Iowa and the country.”

That sounds like a plan that a lot of Iowans can get behind.

Now let’s see if the deeds match the words.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government. His columns appears Mondays in The Gazette. Reach him at erin.murphy@lee.net and follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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