The 2020 election cycle is ramping up, and with it shrinks a precious window for congressional bipartisanship.
At this point, some Americans exhausted by the latest scandal, constant infighting or early-morning tweet may question that there ever was a window for bipartisanship following the midterm elections. But the reality is, Congress has a good opening before summer campaigning heats up to push through long-promised reforms, if only lawmakers can keep their heads down and stay out of the muddy fray.
To aid that opportunity, here are two recommendations: 1) Delay presidential campaigning; and 2) Focus on winnable policy battles instead of chasing political squabbles.
The first is a vain hope. Ideally, presidential campaigning would start a reasonable length of time before the 2020 primaries, which does not mean 22 months in advance of Election Day. But in an era where candidates need to act fast to capture early big donors, the country can’t expect much less than seemingly endless election cycles.
The second is more achievable, provided lawmakers have discipline. The minute members of Congress devote more energy to party infighting than they do to crafting legislation or hammering out policy details, the window for bipartisanship narrows.
Congress should take up policies that resonate across all constituencies, the first being a continued resolve to fight the nation’s opioid crisis. Last fall, an overwhelmingly bipartisan Congress passed a package of bills aimed at addressing the crisis. Some bills had more merit than others, and it would have been better to debate and pass them individually, but at least it showed a willingness to curb what is a frightening epidemic that knows no political bounds. Every member should feel pressure from their districts to do more.
Similarly, Americans are united in their dissatisfaction with drug prices. Reworking the market for prescription drugs should appeal to anyone interested in saving their constituents money and lowering the costs of health care across the board.
Next ought to be infrastructure investment, which continues to be one of President Donald Trump’s largest unfulfilled initiatives. The president’s plan asks for $1 trillion to update roads, restructure airports and empower states to take control of their own projects, rather than facilitating an environment in which states postpone investments in hopes the federal government will pick up the tab.
While the investment price tag may be a knot for lawmakers to untangle, it would be hard for them to argue that constituents, especially businesses, don’t want or need improved airways, waterways and motorways.
Congress also has an opportunity to curb executive branch overreach by passing legislation along the lines of the bill Rep. John Curtis has co-sponsored, which puts a 60-day cap on any emergency declaration unless Congress votes for it to continue. There are also must-pass bills on spending, the national debt and deficit spending that have a window to get done prior to election season.17 comments on this story
These winnable, generally appealing, battles could give Congress enough momentum to then turn to the more divisive policies, such as immigration reform. But the time is now, before lawmakers become more concerned with winning votes by denigrating the people with whom they should be collaborating. The American people should demand more from lawmakers. Too many in Washington would rather argue the issue (and accept the fundraising dollars that go with it) than solve the problem with good public policy.
When it comes to policies that would have a positive effect on the average American life, the country is far less divided than it seems. Washington needs to realize unity where it exists and capitalize on it.