When the founders established the U.S. Senate, they intended for it to be a check on the volatile, populist House of Representatives. This was supposed to be the “upper body,” where rational debate led to wise policy decisions for the good of the nation. For more than 200 years, the Senate mostly lived up to the founders’ intention. But in recent years, things have changed. Traditional Senate comity and bipartisanship have shifted to a freeze on action and attempts at total domination by whichever party has the majority.
Until recently, both Democratic and Republican senators worked through many of their disagreements politely, aided by the Senate’s rich tradition of civility, fostering personal relationships across political parties. Throughout our nation’s history, we had great Senate leaders who worked both sides of the aisle to move the country forward. Majority Leaders like Lyndon Johnson, Mike Mansfield, Robert Byrd, Howard Baker, George Mitchell, and Trent Lott worked across political lines for the nation first and the Senate second; their party was often an afterthought.