Norman Ornstein, long-time fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and Congressional scholar with 40 years of experience, contrasts bi-partisanship in past Congresses (even during Vietnam) with a dysfunctional legislative branch today. His discussion elaborates the difference between a US-type ‘checks and balances’ system and a Parliamentary system, drawing out the corrosive effect partisan sectarianism has on the US model. Ornstein writes his bleak assessment in Foreign Policy:
Yes, the 111th Congress, during the first two years of the Obama presidency, produced an impressive spate of major legislative accomplishments, from a stimulus package to a sweeping health-care reform bill to major financial regulatory reform. But all were passed after contentious, drawn-out, partisan battles that left most Americans less than happy with the outcomes. And look what we have now: a long-term debt disaster with viable bipartisan solutions on the table but ignored or cast aside in Congress; an impasse over the usually perfunctory matter of raising the statutory debt limit placing the United States in jeopardy of its first-ever default; sniping and guerrilla warfare over two major policy steps enacted in the last Congress, health-care reform and financial regulation; no serious action or movement on climate change, jobs, or the continuing mortgage crisis; and major trade deals stalled yet again despite bipartisan and presidential support.
The Framers saw deliberation, institutional loyalty, and compromise as the only way to produce sensible and legitimate policy decisions in an extended republic. Many Republicans, especially former office holders, understand this. Many of the party’s current members surely would prefer to solve problems, if the culture and atmosphere — and the primary process that gives inordinate power to both parties’ ideological bases — did not make it so hard to do so. But there is little chance that a suitable climate for compromise and bipartisanship will take hold anytime soon — meaning that we can look forward to more headaches ahead at home and abroad.