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The Circus on the Hill

James Lankford Kyrsten Sinema
The backlash to a bill negotiated by three of the chamber’s best dealmakers—Republican James Lankford, Democrat Chris Murphy, and independent Kyrsten Sinema—was predictably swift, with Lankford taking the brunt of the onslaught. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
Abby Livingston
February 5, 2024

Even as the House has become more unruly and chaotic over the past 15 years, it was always easy to cross the Rotunda, walk past the Old Supreme Court chamber, and suddenly step back in time to an era where politicians still bragged about bipartisan friendships and joining various “gangs” to cut great big, ambitious bills. That consensual hallucination seemed to evaporate on Monday, as a bill negotiated by three of the chamber’s best dealmakers—Republican James Lankford, Democrat Chris Murphy, and independent Kyrsten Sinema—ran into the buzzsaw of House Republican politics.

On Sunday, the three senators released the text of a bill addressing multiple third rails of American politics—a conservative proposal to tighten U.S. border security, combined with a package of foreign aid to Ukraine (despised by the far right), and additional military support for Israel (despised by the far left)—perhaps relying on a sort of old-school triangulation game theory that could lubricate its passage. What if everyone got something they wanted? How quaint.