WASHINGTON — An empowered faction of Donald Trump-aligned Republicans is seeking to redefine dealmaking as an insult by deploying the term “uniparty” to attack colleagues who work with Democrats and strike deals that fall short of what their base wants.

The growing use of the word among the GOP’s ascendant culture warriors represents an effort by conservative lawmakers, activists and commentators to disparage bipartisan agreements on matters that have broad support in Congress like government funding, infrastructure spending and aid for U.S. allies like Ukraine.

Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., chair of the far-right Freedom Caucus, called the recent House passage of a bill to avert a partial government shutdown an example of a “uniparty vote,” with Republicans who “talk about spending cuts and talk about fiscal responsibility” but ultimately support compromise spending measures.

“The uniparty is when the rubber meets the road and Republicans and Democrats join hands to stick it to the American people,” Good told NBC News.

He added that “unfortunately, too many Republicans are all too eager” to compromise with Democrats.

While Republicans control the House, Democrats hold the Senate majority and the White House, where President Joe Biden on Friday signed into law the short-term funding bill that was negotiated with House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to keep the government open.

House and Senate Republicans who have assailed the so-called uniparty — including Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida, as well as Sens. Rick Scott of Florida and J.D. Vance of Ohio — all voted against the latest government funding bill.

The House voted 320-99 to pass the measure, followed by a 77-13 vote in the Senate — evidence that there is “absolutely” a “uniparty” in Washington, according to Boebert.

“It means Republicans who vote Democrat Light, who side with the other party because they are weak and refuse to take a stand,” she said in an interview. “Unfortunately, too many Republicans campaign as conservatives and govern like Nancy Pelosi.”

Vance, a leading critic of additional funding for Ukraine’s military effort, said he doesn’t know where the term “uniparty” came from but cited the recent debate over assisting Ukraine in fending off Russia as an example.

“Whether you call it a uniparty or something else, I do think it suggests something’s broken about our democratic process,” he said.

Where did the term come from?

The modern use of “uniparty” traces back a few years, though its roots run deeper. The term’s framing has long been a favorite of Steve Bannon, the former Trump White House official and right-wing media personality who has been deploying it for years. Trump himself has reposted items from supporters who use the descriptor on his Truth Social platform.

The right has previously embraced similar wording, like “regime,” which Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis used repeatedly during his 2024 presidential campaign to describe the federal government, and “drain the swamp,” a rallying cry during Trump’s 2016 campaign. There’s also “the cathedral,” a term used by some on the right to describe institutions they see as controlling acceptable political discourse.

Meanwhile, the left and third-party candidates have at times embraced similar terminology. An aide to former President Barack Obama described the foreign policy establishment as “the Blob,” while former Green Party presidential nominees Ralph Nader and Jill Stein have used “uniparty” in railing against the U.S. political system.

In the 2024 campaign, independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has invoked the term, including when he wrote in The Baltimore Sun last month that special interest groups “control our government to such an extent that — no matter which party is in charge — many Americans now refer to the two parties as the ‘uniparty.’”

Stefanie Spear, a Kennedy spokesperson, said in a statement that “more Americans of all political persuasions are recognizing that both establishment parties largely represent the same corporate interests.”

“The term uniparty is therefore quite natural, and Mr. Kennedy is pleased that it is gaining traction,” she said.

Sen. Rand Paul, the son of libertarian former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, noted the third-party roots of the uniparty framework, saying, “There’s been a uniparty since I was a kid and would come up here in the 1970s.”

“Libertarians always used it when they were running as another independent party,” Paul, R-Ky., said in an interview. “Hadn’t been used as much within the Republican Party, but I think it’s catching on.”

Some Republicans dislike the framing

The term is most often used when discussing two distinct issues — funding for Ukraine and government spending. And the leader who finds himself most under attack on that front is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who recently announced he will step down from leadership after the November elections.

McConnell has vociferously pushed for additional funding for Ukraine and, in a time of divided government, has been able to cut a series of deals with the Biden administration.

“Believe me, I know the politics within my party at this particular moment in time,” McConnell said during a portion of his Senate floor speech on Wednesday announcing his pending retirement that focused on the need for America to lead on the global stage. “I have many faults; misunderstanding politics is not one of them.”

Yet some Republicans, including those aligned with the lawmakers who voted against the short-term spending agreement and have pushed back on new funding for Ukraine, find the term odd.

“What, you can’t differentiate between a Democrat and Republican up here?” said Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas.

Asked why his colleagues are using the term, he replied: “I don’t know. I guess everybody’s gotta come up with something clever.”

And one Senate Republican aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they “don’t like the term, frankly.”

“I think it went from ‘the swamp,’ which I do like, to ‘the regime,’ which I like less, then ‘uniparty,’ which I like even less,” this person said. “And they all kind of mean the same thing. But I think it sounds increasingly nerdy and weird and people don’t really know what they mean.”

This person said they feel some lawmakers are using this language because it sounds “like a vaguely intellectual term, even though it’s not, actually.”

As for what separates “uniparty” initiatives from the kind of bipartisanship some of these right-wing lawmakers might take part in, this person said the distinction was simple: If leadership on both sides is for it, it’s “uniparty,” but if the leaders of both parties oppose it, it’s not.

Democrats continue to celebrate bipartisanship

Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, a member of Democratic leadership, said the use of the term by certain Republicans highlights their interest in catering only to a narrow slice of the electorate.

“If they want to make it crystal clear that their coalition comprises 28% of the public, then I welcome that,” he said. “They are a minority and they are trying to turn the fact that their views are minority opinions into some sort of virtue. But the truth is that they’re way out of the mainstream, and any competent political party would not emphasize that point.”

Democrats have not hesitated to celebrate acts of bipartisanship, even when it leads to legislation or policies they consider imperfect.

“As I said directly to the speaker over and over and over again, the only way to get things done here is with bipartisanship, and this agreement is another proof point,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the floor Thursday of the short-term government funding bill. “When bipartisanship is prioritized, when getting things done for the American people takes a high priority, good things can happen even in divided government.”

In a statement Wednesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre used “bipartisan” three times in one sentence to describe the legislation.

“The bipartisan agreement announced today would help prevent a needless shutdown while providing more time to work on bipartisan appropriations bills and for the House to pass the bipartisan national security supplemental as quickly as possible,” she said.

Could it apply to Trump?

Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., framed his use of “uniparty” entirely around spending, using the term to describe “the group that always votes for more spending and more debt.”

“The letter beside their name does not matter: [They’re] Republicans that vote like Democrats and the Democrats that vote like Republicans,” Burchett said.

By that measure, the term could extend to Trump, whose policies in office led to increased spending and deficits, even when Republicans controlled both the House and Senate.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who worked in the Trump administration as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has repeatedly brought up Trump-era spending on the campaign trail as she seeks to defeat her onetime boss for the GOP nomination.

“I would love to tell you that Joe Biden did that to us,” she said in South Carolina last month while expressing dismay over the national debt. “But I always have spoken to you in hard truths. And I’m going to do that with you tonight. Our Republicans did that to us too. You look at the fact that President Trump put us $8 trillion in debt in just four years. More than any other president.”

One word she did not use in describing that predicament: uniparty.

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