It was wonderful to see Democrats and Republicans praying together before their traditional baseball game Thursday. They provided a fitting moment of unity a day after the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R., La.), and three other people during the GOP team’s practice on a field in Alexandria, Va.
It would be nice to think that kumbaya moment will last. But it won’t. Just as it did not last after former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D., Ariz.) was shot in 2011 following a constituent meeting by a gunman who also wounded 17 other people.
The only thing bipartisan seems to be whom these gunmen choose to shoot.
Giffords, disabled by being shot in the head, retired from Congress in 2012. Her shooter got off 33 rounds with one gun, so legislation was proposed to reestablish the 10-round limit on magazines that had existed until 2004 when President George W. Bush allowed the assault weapons ban to expire. But the measure failed.
Tea-party Republicans argued that because the Arizona shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, had a history of mental illness, changing gun laws was irrelevant.
There has been no establishment of the mental state of the man who shot Scalise, James T. Hodgkinson, who was killed in the subsequent gun battle with police. But does that even matter?
Not even the killing of 20 innocent children in the Sandy Hook massacre, less than two years after Giffords was shot, could get Congress to pass significant gun control.
Maybe it’s Congress’ own history of violence that stops it from acting more decisively. After all, its members used to enter the chambers strapped. There are stirring accounts of Sen. Henry Foote of Mississippi drawing a pistol on Sen. Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri during a heated debate. But that was in 1850.
If gun control is too difficult an issue, perhaps Congress can build on the presumably fleeting camaraderie evoked by the wounding of a colleague to find common ground on another issue.
President Trump has suggested that the Obamacare replacement legislation passed by the House is “mean.” The Senate should use that cue to come up with a bill that not only is less draconian, but makes more sense.
Any new law must acknowledge that covering more people while trying to keep insurance companies happy must include the linchpin of the Affordable Care Act, the individual mandate. Otherwise, the ratio of healthy policyholders to unhealthy policyholders will raise premiums to a level that isn’t affordable for too many.
If not health insurance or gun control, maybe Congress can sustain this moment of amity long enough to find common ground on another issue. Immigration is likely a bridge too far as well. But do something other than play a ballgame.
It has become hard to believe Congress will ever shed party labels and shun special interests. The best examples of bipartisanship are the civil rights bills of more than 50 years ago. That record should make no one proud.