An Agenda for a Divided Congress


As we get up this morning, America is aware of it should quickly have a divided authorities – a Republican-controlled Senate and a Democratic-controlled Home of Representatives. That new actuality naturally conjures up painful ideas of two extra years of preventing reasonably than fixing, two extra years of partisan acrimony, and two extra years of gridlock. However none of that needs to be the case.

In truth, Congress has operated effectively prior to now when its energy was divided between the 2 main political events. In spite of everything, checks and balances are what the Founders desired.

The rationale could also be {that a} divided Congress forces the events to work collectively and share accountability. Among the most impactful laws enacted by Congress in our lifetimes – the Chilly Battle response to the Soviet risk, our federal freeway system, civil rights laws, tax reform, Social Safety reform, welfare reform, the post-9/11 response to terror — got here from bipartisan management. In truth, one may argue that enduring laws is unlikely with out bipartisan help.

So to those that argue that Congress will inevitably slide down a rut of inaction, do not forget that inaction/gridlock is a selection – and for Congress, it’s the worst one.

Congress – no matter who controls it – is immediately much less fashionable than the flu. The reason being easy: It routinely fails to deal with the nation’s priorities as a result of it persistently chooses occasion and beliefs over problem-solving. We the individuals have grown numb to Congress failing to satisfy its fundamental duties – not passing budgets, not working collectively on nationwide safety and intelligence issues and never discharging its duties in a good and considerate method.

If the 116th Congress needs to succeed, it must show to voters it will possibly do the essential work entrusted to it by the Structure, and deal with the intractable issues of the nation.

The place is the agenda that can stimulate and animate a revered, accountable and productive Congress? Look first for areas the place there’s actual settlement between the events, though they don’t acknowledge it. For instance, our nation’s infrastructure is a large number – roads, bridges, rail, airports and seaports are overstressed and under-capitalized. We want an infrastructure overhaul, and each events have good causes to help one.

The incoming Congress may additionally tackle the problem of privateness and expertise – an space the place most Individuals and each events are proper to demand extra accountability from massive expertise corporations.

Congress may additionally produce smart and bipartisan immigration reform, if nearly all of members have the need. For too lengthy, the extremes in each events have outlined the controversy over immigration for his or her political profit. And but, majorities in each events help a balanced package deal that might cross. The main points will matter, and there might be many moments when feelings will rule the day, however this a lot is evident: Most Individuals are uninterested in our damaged immigration and citizenship system and would welcome reform.

None of that is attainable with out management, starting with the White Home. President Trump must play a mediating position – tamping down the tough rhetoric he has deployed towards political opponents. Can he do it? That’s as much as him. However I’ve by no means met a president making ready for a troublesome re-election who didn’t care what the general public needs [ — and if exit polls are to be believed, the independents who sided with Democratic candidates want a softening of his rhetoric at the very least]. If Individuals demand a productive, bipartisan Congress, the president can assist make it occur.

President Trump will not be the one one who has to vary. For too lengthy, leaders in each events have grown accustomed to hyper-partisanship. It will probably appear from the sound of issues that our nation’s political leaders are educated to realize one aim – to harm the opposite facet. That’s not what they have been chosen to do.

There are complete armies of enablers to this tradition of dislike – not simply members of Congress, however their employees, single-issue partisans and the various media pundits. There’s good cash to be created from Washington’s civil wars, though it comes on the expense of the whole nation. However I’m assured that the president, working with leaders on the prime of every occasion, can construct a brand new tradition in Washington, in the event that they wish to.

That tradition would make room for debate and disagreement, however in the end would result in collaboration and coordination on vital points that matter to all Individuals. We want a Congress that takes severely, for instance, its Constitutional accountability to offer for the widespread protection, to carry committee hearings on judicial nominees that don’t devolve into screaming matches, and to carry discussions of latest issues that afflict our nation, such because the opioid epidemic.

The way forward for America is determined by constructive motion on these vital issues. We are able to anticipate variations of opinion however we can’t settle for partisan and mutual denigration. Individuals have seen Congress perform fairly effectively prior to now, so we all know there’s a higher approach to do the individuals’s enterprise. It’s time for Congress – each events – to do it.

Joe Lieberman, a former U.S. senator from Connecticut, is nationwide co-chairman of No Labels, a company working to create a brand new heart in American politics that places nation earlier than occasion.