For Rep. Adam Schiff, the post-January state of bipartisanship looked bleak. 6, 2021.
Two years ago, rioters invaded the US Capitol as Congress met to confirm the 2020 presidential election, which then-President Donald Trump lost. The attacks claimed five lives and injured many more.
Four Southern California Republicans — Jay Obernolte, Darrell Issa, Ken Calvert and Mike Garcia — voted against confirming the election results. More recently, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol recommended the Justice Department prosecute Trump on four charges, including aiding and abetting a riot.
“After Jan. 6, many of my Democratic colleagues decided they would never again work with anyone who voted to overturn the election,” said Schiff, D-Burbank. “Never sponsor a bill with them; never work with them.”
But Schiff said he was faced with a difficult situation. He was chairman of the Intelligence Committee, where a majority of Republican members voted to annul the election. If he decided not to work with any of them again, he would not be able to undertake the committee’s work.
So Schiff made the decision to prioritize getting the committee’s work done, he said — even if it meant working with Republicans.
But relationships across the aisle — and even amidst the GOP — would never be the same.
“It’s really poisoned the relationship between Democrats and Republicans in Congress,” said Schiff, who sat on the Jan. 6 committee. “And not just between Democrats and Republicans, but also for brave Republicans like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger and others who have stood up against Trump and against those who tried to overthrow the election.”
The speaker effect
Now the difficult state of bipartisanship in the election of the House Speaker is being revealed, said Schiff’s colleague Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, has lost an historic 11 rounds of voting in recent days as about 20 die-hard Republicans refuse to support him. Republicans have a narrow majority in the House of Representatives, and without at least some of their support, he couldn’t garner enough votes to secure the Speaker’s gavel.
“It’s hard to say things have improved,” Sherman said. “Of course, if you can’t get all the votes you need from one party, you should be able to get some votes from the other party. But so far, Kevin McCarthy hasn’t even indicated that he wants a democratic vote.”
Rep. Norma Torres, D-Pomona, distinguishes between the hard-line Republicans who are holding back on choosing Speaker and others who are willing to work with colleagues in Congress.
“They’re here because they want a microphone and want to be a bomb thrower,” Torres said of Republicans’ refusal to endorse McCarthy.
“But there are Republicans and Democrats who are here and want to get things done and work together,” she said, citing bipartisan legislation that has been passed over the past two years, including infrastructure bills and manufacturing investments.
Rep. Mike Levin, who represents part of Orange and San Diego counties, said there are many members on both sides who are more interested in getting their jobs done.
“I try to find members like that and work with them,” Levin said. “And we’ve had great success with it.”
Levin recently teamed with GOP Rep. Young Kim to announce a nearly $3.5 million grant for upgrades to the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center, which will help the facility fight various types of crime.
“This is just one of many examples that despite these dark events of two years ago, we continue to work together in the best interests of our communities,” Levin said.
Shortly after the Jan. 6 attacks, Kim condemned the violence as “abhorrent” and said she was afraid the threats would continue. After missing the first vote on Arizona’s election results due to possible exposure to COVID-19, Kim voted to confirm Pennsylvania’s electoral votes.
In an email statement for that story, Kim said, “Despite the challenges we face, as Americans, there is more that unites us than divides us.”
Still, there are feelings of animosity that many Democratic members feel toward Republicans who attempted to topple President Joe Biden’s election victory.
“It’s especially hard when you think about people who didn’t vote to validate the election results and the fact that you have to work with them because that feels to all of us who were there that day, like a slap in the face.” Rep. Linda Sanchez of Whittier said.
“People around me didn’t have the guts to make their convictions,” Riverside’s Rep. Mark Takano said. “The courage to be a leader. And they couldn’t honestly say to their own supporters, “Donald Trump is telling you lies.” They couldn’t vote for democracy and celebrate the peaceful transfer of power because they were too scared to face a primary challenge. This is a failure of leadership.”
“That’s what led to this moment right now that we’re experiencing where we can’t choose a speaker,” Takano continued. “And frankly, everyone should call out extremists and get angry that a tiny group of 20 people are deciding how this is supposed to work. They should be pointing down. Shame on the Republicans for not opposing them. Shame on January 6th members, including Republican members in California, for not standing up to these extremists and Donald Trump. Shame on you as they are responsible for the chaos and dysfunction we are seeing.”
The Southern California News Group has reached out to several Republicans in the Southern California House about this story. Issa did not respond to requests for comment, while Calvert and Orange County Rep. Michelle Steel, who did not vote on Jan. 6 after testing positive for COVID-19, declined to comment.
Calvert’s spokesman, Jason Gagnon, said he was unavailable for an interview but referred to some of his earlier statements on January 6. Although he voted to have the election results annulled, he previously told Press-Enterprise, “No one should feel good about the violence that took place that day. This is not good for our democracy.”
A turning point
Like many of his peers, the attack on the Capitol two years ago marked a turning point in Rep. Lou Correa’s political career.
The Orange County Democrat thought his life would end on January 6, 2021. But the harrowing events of that day, he said, eventually cemented his relationship with a number of Republicans.
“I had no doubts that this would be the end,” Correa said. “When we were trapped in the Capitol, Democrats and Republicans fought for their lives. And I found some of my best Republican friends that night because some of us got together and said, ‘If we go down, we go down together.’ And so we were ready to fight hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder to protect ourselves.”
One of those good friends on the Republican side is Michigan Rep. Jack Bergman, with whom he works to lead a bipartisan faction investigating how psychedelics can be used to treat substance abuse or mental disorders.
But he said stories of politicians from different parties coming together don’t get much attention due to the highly polarized nature of American politics.
“You work across the aisle and everyone’s like, ‘Oh my God, that’s a sin,'” he said. “You know, people say that’s negative.”
But despite the chaos and dysfunction that erupted on Jan. 6, and the ongoing drama from House Speakers, Correa said he believes bipartisanship has asserted itself.
“Many of us, Democrats and Republicans, are patriots. We love this country. And we want what is best for this nation beyond party affiliation,” he said. “There were a lot of Democrats and Republicans who didn’t say they were glad the Republicans had so much mess (with speaker choice). We took it as a very sad moment in our history because the rest of the world isn’t going to say Republicans can’t make it. They will say that American democracy remains weak. American leadership remains weak.
“And the world will not differentiate between Democrats and Republicans. The world will say this shows once again that American democracy is at stake.”
Beau Yarbrough contributed to this report.
https://www.ocregister.com/2023/01/06/how-jan-6-impacted-bipartisanship-among-california-representatives/ How January 6 Affected Bipartisanship Among California Representatives – Orange County Register