Carl Hulse at The New York Times:
Everyone in Congress these days seems to believe everyone else is up to something. It is the legacy of the polarization and power plays that have robbed Congress of an essential ingredient to reaching big policy agreements. “Trust is key, and there is almost none now,” said Tom Daschle, the former Democratic Senate leader from South Dakota who was able to work with his Republican counterpart, Trent Lott, despite their fundamental ideological differences. “Trust comes from personal relationships built over time.” While members of the group of senators who developed the [infrastructure] legislation with the White House say they have forged strong bonds that allow them to confidently deal with one another, suspicions about their agreement remain among their colleagues. Many Democrats fear that Republicans, led by Mr. McConnell, are playing them, dragging out the infrastructure proceedings in hopes of watering down the package and complicating or killing Democratic efforts to pass a much larger $3.5 trillion budget measure stuffed with the party’s priorities. Their view is based on experiences from 2009 and 2010, when Republicans engaged in extended talks on health care, exacting concessions and taking up precious time, only to abandon the idea and leave Democrats on their own at a critical moment. Republicans, on the other hand, worry that Mr. Schumer and most Democrats do not really want a bipartisan deal and would prefer to go it alone on their bigger, more progressive package. They believe Mr. Schumer is going through the motions to satisfy the bipartisan desires of President Biden and a handful of Democratic senators to keep them on board for the bigger bill, but would not be unhappy if the infrastructure compromise collapsed so he could move on and still be able to say that he tried and failed to work with Republicans.
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, also points to the breakdown of the committee system, in which the leader of a panel would typically work closely with the senior member of the other party to develop legislation. Today, significant measures often emerge not from committee rooms but from leadership suites or “gangs” of negotiating lawmakers, as is the case with the infrastructure bill.“When we had a strong committee system, you had strong relationships based on trust between the chairman and ranking member,” said Ms. Collins, one of the bipartisan infrastructure negotiators. “Now, because the committee structure and the power of the committees has lessened and more and more legislation is written either by groups like ours or in the leader’s office, it is harder to build those bonds of trust that allow you to get things done.”