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OpinionColumnistsWilliam F. B. O'Reilly

Washington takes two hopeful steps

Can anyone remember the last time Congress even considered bipartisanship?

A view of the Capitol building's rotunda on

A view of the Capitol building's rotunda on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Jan. 24, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

It’s been an especially bad week in our nation’s capitol.

On Tuesday a sitting U.S. attorney general had to give sworn testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee — never a good thing — and early Wednesday gunfire erupted on a Virginia ballfield where congressional Republicans were practicing for an annual charity baseball game against congressional Democrats. Had Capitol security not been on hand, one senator at the shooting later said, “it would have been a massacre.”

But two good and very normal things also happened on The Hill this week that should be noted. They offer hope to those of us — left, right and center — who crave normalcy in our nation’s politics even as we advocate for divergent change.

The first was a small thing — a photo emerging of congressional Democrats praying for Republican colleagues in a dugout of their practice field moments after the shooting. It’s a picture worth printing and thumbtacking to a wall.

The second emergence, of more pressing significance, is reports of a bipartisan bill moving through Congress to impose additional sanctions on Russia and Iran.

You read that right: a bipartisan bill. Can anyone remember the last?

The legislation has been percolating in the halls of Congress in reaction to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election (and Iranian transgressions since sanctions on that nation were lifted in 2015).

It’s the part of the bill concerning Russia, of course, that’s of particular note. It constitutes an appropriate reaction to the unprecedented attack on our democratic process. The response we have been seeing out the Trump administration has been anything but appropriate. Evidence of Russian tampering has been met with inexplicable calls for sanction relief.

Those are the facts; make of them what you will.

The legislation, which is predicted to pass both houses and be sent to the president’s desk for his signature or veto, has iron in it. It would cement in place sanctions the Obama administration imposed on Russia after evidence of election meddling was first discovered, add tough new ones, and, most important, mandate congressional review of any changes the Trump administration may wish to make to Russian sanctions going forward.

That’s a big, big deal. It would mean the Trump administration having to make the case for easing sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s Russia in a public setting. I’d walk from New York to Washington to sit in on that hearing.

There’s no guarantee that this bipartisan legislation will make it whole, or at all, to the president’s desk. Strange things happen to bills in committee. But chances that it will arrive in one piece are reportedly good by Washington standards.

So what does President Donald Trump do?

One has to assume he would immediately sign the bill into law. Common sense demands it — right?

Let’s hope he does. The president’s signature would provide desperately needed reassurance to Americans that two and two still equals four, up remains the opposite of down and attacks on American soil, physical or digital, will always result in commensurate retribution. Any other message would be a cause for genuine alarm.

Republicans and Democrats coming together over Russian tampering, and Wednesday’s tragic shooting, offers hope that they can find common ground on other key challenges facing the nation. Together they would be sending Trump both a message and a life preserver.

Indeed, one stroke of his pen could do wonders for this presidency.

William F.B. O’Reilly is a consultant for Republicans.


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