The Bi-Polar Congress
Posted on October 4, 2018As the United States Senate concludes a bitter Supreme Court nomination fight, the U.S. House of Representatives has scattered to the four corners of America, trying to reach out to constituents before they go to vote on the first Tuesday of November (or before, in some cases).
The House has that luxury because of an odd feature of this first Trump Congress: public partisanship on the outside, private bipartisanship on the inside.
It is as if the Congress itself is bi-polar. It has two distinct and contradictory personalities.
How can a Senate that has expressed its total contempt for its colleagues on the other side of the ideological divide work together to pass historic opioids legislation that will hopefully stop Americans from killing itself through overdose.
How can a House that houses both a Maxine Waters and a Jeb Hensarling on the same committee pass bipartisan legislation that fixed the most glaring flaws in the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law?
The bipartisan accomplishments of this Congress are impressive and stretch through almost every committee.
The Energy and Commerce and Senate Help Committees produced the opioids legislation. The Financial Services Committee in both bodies found common ground on the banking legislation.
The Senate Commerce Committee and the House Transportation Committee completed work on the FAA reauthorization. A water projects bill, WRDA, passed both the Transportation and Senate Energy and Public Works Committee, among others.
House and Senate Appropriators completed almost all of their work, leaving just a portion for the President to pontificate on border wall funding.
Of course, all has not been cheerily bipartisan.
A farm bill reauthorization was punted until after the election because of a dispute over welfare reforms that Democrats seem to be bitterly opposed to.
Democrats refused to play ball on President Trump’s signature tax cut law, which most conservative analysts credit for jump-starting a moribund Obama economy and providing the highest sustained growth since the Clinton years.
Democrats in the Senate have also done their level-best to slow down Mitch McConnell’s march to a more restrained judiciary. But even that has been helped by the Democrats, who unwittingly gave the Majority Leader a huge gift when they changed Senate rules to allow for a simple majority to confirm judicial appointments.
Outside of those who spend hours pontificating on cable talk shows, most members of the Congress actually spend a lot of their time legislating, when they aren’t raising money for their own reelections.
In this era of the tweet and the flash mob, it is hard for lawmakers to tout their accomplishments, most of which are bipartisan in nature.
I think of somebody like Adam Putnam, who lost his Florida primary for Governor against Congressman Ron DeSantis. Putnam had a laundry list of impressive accomplishments as former Member of Congress and as Florida’s Secretary of Agriculture. What he didn’t have was President Trump’s endorsement.
Had Putnam won the primary with the President’s endorsement, he would have been unbeatable in the Governor’s race against a fundamentally flawed and reportedly corrupt Democratic nominee.
And that perhaps is a lesson for Republicans running this year, especially those who are running in swing districts.
You have to keep your base fired up, but you also need to appeal to those who want the government to work effectively and efficiently.
Republicans should tout the Trump economy that flowed from the Trump tax cuts as they talk about their many bipartisan accomplishments, which include landmark opioid legislation, small bank regulatory relief, airline safety improvements, defense spending increase and investment in medical research.
The Congress might be bi-polar, but its accomplishments should have bipartisan support. It will be up to Republican candidates to talk about them, because God knows, the media won’t.