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Exiting president extends flexibility to successor

It has been written and said many times that no one understands the challenges of the presidency as well as an ex-president. It also has been noted by the American people that occupants of the Oval Office frequently are able count on their predecessors for advice and sometimes even more substantial aid.

During the weekend there was a little-noticed yet important development in that regard. Sit down for this: President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden seem to agree on something.

Earlier this month, a bipartisan coalition of members of Congress proposed a $908 billion package to give Americans more help in battling the COVID-19 epidemic and recovering from its economic side-effects. Give Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., enormous credit for setting up that coalition.

But for several days, it appeared the bipartisan group’s plan might not be approved. Various objections by both Republican and Democratic members of Congress threated to derail it.

Late last week, it appeared the very last obstacle to approval was an issue involving the Federal Reserve’s ability to assist businesses and local and state governments through a very narrow, specific program. Some leading Republican lawmakers wanted the program to end as had been scheduled on Dec. 31. Some Democrat leaders wanted it extended.

What was striking about the dispute was the stance Trump’s administration took — agreeing with Democratic lawmakers. An Associated Press story Sunday noted that, “Democrats and the White House said (ending the program) would have tied the hands of the incoming Biden administration.”

Amid widespread, hardline partisanship in Washington, then, Trump is working to give his successor flexibility. It would be difficult to overstate the significance of that act.

During a period when Republicans and Democrats often seem to be battling each other for no other reason than partisanship, the Trump administration’s action on that one issue is both gratifying and encouraging.

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