Throughout his eight years as president, Barack Obama has faced unrelenting resistance from Republicans in Congress. It has been truly unprecedented, inspired more, it seems, by personal vendettas than substantive policy differences.
Yet Obama, calm and collected, continually tried to reach across the political aisle to bring people together. Most of the time, his attempts were rebuffed. But every now and then his unwavering commitment to bipartisanship led to big achievements.
Here are four times Obama strove for bipartisanship.
In 2015, Obama worked with Democrats and Republicans to pass the first transportation spending bill since 2005. The country’s infrastructure is in bad shape and each year that goes by without adequate funding, the cost of repairs increases. After all, bolstering a failing bridge is less expensive than building an entirely new bridge once the initial bridge collapses.
So Republicans and Democrats came together to work on a solution.
The final bill that Obama signed into law was a compromise between both parties, falling short of Obama’s ideal bill by more than a $150 billion. Still, it was a significant achievement that showed Washington can still pass something.
"This bill is not perfect, but it is a commonsense compromise, and an important first step in the right direction," Obama said after the bill was signed.
Food Aid Reform
In 2014, Global Citizen began drumming up support for the Global Food Security Act, which aims to reform how US food aid is executed around the world. More than 120,000 actions by Global Citizens helped to keep the bill relevant to politicians and, since the proposal is so sensible, both Republicans and Democrats became champions for its passage. Throughout, President Obama was advocating for the bill and he finally received a final version in 2016:
“This game-changing development initiative,” he said at the time. "While we've already accomplished so much through this collaborative global partnership, I know that with the continued effort and support that this legislation provides, we can achieve what was just a few years ago the unimaginable: We can end global poverty and hunger within our lifetimes."
Introduced by the Obama administration in 2010, Opening Doors is the nation’s first comprehensive federal strategy to tackle homelessness, particularly among youth and veterans. The program was conceived with the understanding that “homelessness is unacceptable” in the world’s most prosperous country and diverse politicians came together to work on its execution. Over five years, the Obama administration has worked with states controlled by both parties across the country. As a result, veteran homelessness has dropped by 36% and more resources are available around the country.
Read More: A Wake-Up Call on Homelessness
Saving the Economy
Obama inherited the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression when he entered office in 2009. With the economy in freefall, Obama strove to craft one of the most ambitious bipartisan stimulus bills in the country’s history. Republicans in the Senate made substantial changes to the bill before it was passed, even though the Democrats held a supermajority and could pass whatever they wanted. But the urgency of the matter and Obama’s desire to foster a working relationship with Republicans forced the altered bill to go through.
When the $831 billion bill was disbursed, it acted as a defibrillator, stabilizing sectors all across the economy, especially the banking and auto industries. Although Democrats wanted the bill to be far more robust to accelerate the recovery for all people, the bill still kickstarted the longest jobs-growth streak in the country’s history.