The purpose of Monday’s televised debate was to find political common ground between South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham and self-proclaimed Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders – two seasoned US senators who have little in common.
Both men agreed that Social Security has a solvency problem, that the country’s transport future will be electric and that Russian President Vladimir Putin “fears”.
But on major policy solutions — from gun control to taxes, infrastructure, health care reform and foreign trade — the two couldn’t have been further apart as they debated for 73 minutes on Monday. at the Kennedy Institute in Boston.
“What you have is that he sees this as a problem. I see that as a problem,” Sanders said, when moderator Bret Baier asked directly, for the second time, if the two saw common ground on the budget and Social Security.
“I admire Senator Sanders. He’s on message, he’s got solutions – I don’t think they’ll work. “, Graham said. “I’ve never had such a hard time begging someone to vote on their own bill.”
But on guns, for example, Graham said, “the bottom line is that there are ways for that, but it has to be a bipartisan way. This is how it has been in the past, how it will be in the future and I am ready to do it. But we have to stop this madness. What is happening in Washington must stop.
Monday’s debate, which was expected to find bipartisan agreements, was moderated by Fox News anchor Baier, who covered economic policy and ongoing issues in America.
The Oxford-style long debate was announced May 25 as an effort by the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation, and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute to reinvigorate bipartisan debate in the U.S. Senate.
The Bipartisan Policy Center — a DC-based think tank that promotes bipartisan policy solutions — said the US Senate’s “culture of seeking common ground and consensus” is often lost these days.
The event is part of a series called The Senate Project that will continue with a second debate next month.
Senators debate guns, Putin and party politics
The gun law debateion — which was only discussed at the end of the moderated debate and Sanders’ microphone cut it off with loud static for about three minutes of on-air confusion — was fairly inconclusive.
But the couple agreed a new bipartisan framework to tackle gun violence was a step forward.
Sanders said he would vote for the proposal that a bipartisan group of 20 senators recently agreed to.
“I think it’s a step forward,” Sanders said. “I clearly think it doesn’t go far enough.”
The proposal affirms nine main points for combating armed violence.
It provides money and resources for state intervention laws, mental health and telehealth services and programs in schools. It would also penalize straw purchases, protect victims of domestic violence with restrictions, and improve the review process for those under 21 trying to buy a gun.
Sanders, of Vermont, noted that hunting is popular among his constituents and that he is open-minded about gun ownership, but said he wants more from the bill. When asked for a final statement on the common ground found on gun legislation, Sanders replied, “No comment.”
A joke from Graham about needing to “put a quarter in” the static speaker later, Graham said he was encouraged by Sanders’ open-mindedness but said a fuller proposal would be impossible, citing the 2013 federal assault weapons ban and its failure.
In the recurring talking point of the oil debate, Sanders offered the urgency of electric vehicles and “thoughtful solutions” to foreign trade. Graham said the situation was “supply and demand” and the result of a Democratic-controlled government.
Besides back-and-forth on the gas crisis and health care, the two senators have generally stuck to their party lines, with little to no agreement. The only apparent common ground found in the debate was that both senators agreed that Social Security had a solvency problem and inflation was rising negatively, but no common solution was presented.
At one point during the debate, Graham asked Sanders to agree that “Putin sucks,” to which Sanders replied, “I’m not in favor of vulgarity, but the intent is correct.”
Whether it’s Sanders calling for the revitalization of democracy against the oligarchy or Graham calling for the return of a Republican-led economy, the two senators, who both serve on the Senate Budget Committee, will surely be again faced with all these disagreements.
“I’m on the budget committee with Bernie. It’s been awesome. I really enjoyed it,” Graham said.