In an era where comity is fleeting and the art of the deal appears closed for business, some senators are lamenting the sunset of bipartisanship.
WASHINGTON — Senators Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, and Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, will participate on Wednesday in a TimesTalks conversation with The New York Times, moderated by Jennifer Steinhauer, the Times’s editor of live journalism.
When and where: 6:30 p.m. Eastern at the Newseum in Washington.
How to participate: A portion of the conversation will be devoted to questions from the audience, including the audience on Facebook. Follow along and put your questions in the comment section, and they may be relayed to Mr. Corker and Mr. Warner.
Until then, here is a primer on what’s coming on what’s sure to be discussed:
Bill writers crave it. Lawmakers still tout its virtues. Voters insist they want it.
And yet, by consensus, true meet-in-the-middle bipartisanship is on the outs in Washington. Even in the Senate, the clubbiest body in the capital, where stories still circulate of agreements hashed out over handshakes and cocktails, the art of the deal might best be described as closed for business. The political calculus now favors holding firm to the party line.
Take the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement. When Mr. Obama signed it into law in 2010, drastically reshaping the nation’s health care systems, the legislation on his desk had not received a single Republican vote. And this year, when Republicans — who are back in control of the Washington power levers — trained their attention on repealing the law, they failed in part because they could not win a single Democratic vote in either the House or the Senate.
The same pattern appears to be holding among Republicans in both chambers who are rapidly steering a substantial overhaul to the nation’s tax system toward passage without a Democrat in sight.
But there have been exceptions; notably, President Trump’s agreement with Democrats this fall for a short-term spending deal. Moderate senators in both parties still hope to vote on a bipartisan agreement brokered to stabilize the insurance markets.
And then there are Mr. Corker and Mr. Warner, two Southern senators who, largely by accident, have broken the partisan mold in Mr. Trump’s Washington.
As the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Corker was already one of the most powerful Republicans on Capitol Hill. During his two terms in Washington, the conservative lawmaker had earned a reputation for being willing to negotiate with Democrats. Then he decided not to seek re-election.
In the weeks since, Mr. Corker has emerged as one of Mr. Trump’s chief Republican critics, often joining Democrats in critiquing the president and his party’s acquiescence.
“I don’t know why he lowers himself to such a low, low standard and debases our country,” Mr. Corker said in one interview last month. In one tweet, the senator compared the White House to a day care minding an unqualified president; he also has warned that Mr. Trump is isolating the United States from its allies around the world. Mr. Trump replied in kind, referring to Mr. Corker as “Liddle’ Bob” in a string of counterpunches.
Mr. Corker appears poised to make the most of his elevated platform — and freedom from political considerations. On Tuesday, he joined with Democrats to hold a rare Foreign Relations hearing that focused on the president’s authority over the United States’ nuclear weapons stock. The hearing raised questions about who should be allowed to wage nuclear war at a time that tensions with North Korea have dominated foreign policy.
He has been one of the most aggressive Republican critics of Roy S. Moore, the Republican Senate nominee in Alabama who is accused of making sexual or romantic advances toward five teenage girls. “Look, I’m sorry,” Mr. Corker wrote on Twitter, “but even before these reports surfaced, Roy Moore’s nomination was a bridge too far.”
And Mr. Corker, who has repeatedly raised concerns about adding to the nation’s budget deficit, is also expected to be a key vote on the Republicans’ tax plan. Without his support, the bill would be on life support.
Mr. Warner, on the other hand, has avoided engaging directly with the president. But as the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, he has helped steer an investigation into Russian attempts to meddle in the 2016 election — and whether the Trump campaign helped them do so.
The committee post has made Mr. Warner, a moderate former governor of Virginia with otherwise little national exposure, one of the most important Democrats in Congress. But with Republicans in control of the committee, and its agenda, the post also has required him to carefully cultivate a relationship with the Republican chairman, Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina.
So far, it has appeared to work. While Democrats and Republicans who are working on a parallel investigation in the House Intelligence Committee have exchanged partisan fire and given up hope for a bipartisan finding, Mr. Warner and Mr. Burr have pushed ahead, even against intense pressure from Mr. Trump to end their work.
Whether the Senate committee will hold together to issue joint conclusions about the Russian interference campaign — and the Trump campaign’s role, if any — depends on whether bipartisanship will prevail.