Three things to think about this February 9th
During this week’s State of the Union address, President Biden kept pounding the drum for one recurring theme: bipartisanship. In his address, he urged legislators on both sides of the aisle to come together around four bipartisan goals: fighting cancer, improving veterans’ health care, combating the opioid crisis, and ensuring access to mental health services — policy areas that appeal to both Democrats and Republicans.
Further touting a message of unity, President Biden encouraged legislators to see each other not as enemies but as fellow Americans, praising those who have actively put country over party to pass policies that better the lives of the American people, such as the infrastructure law.
“We’re often told that Democrats and Republicans can’t work together. But over these past two years, we proved the cynics and the naysayers wrong,” he said to the House chamber. “To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together in this new Congress.”
He’s not wrong; that line garnered praise from both sides of the House chamber, as several Republicans joined in the applause. (Now, just imagine what Washington could look like if such words matched the conditions under which legislators operate.)
So, in the spirit of coming together, here are three things to consider this week:
The McCourtney Institute for Democracy and APM Research Lab asked Americans in its recent Mood of the Nation Poll to describe in their own words what law they would choose to enact at the start of the new Congress. Political and electoral reform earned the top of Americans’ legislative wish list with 28% of respondents identifying changes including term limits, campaign finance reform, and proportional representation. Of those, 21% felt that “some sort of change to our political system was needed to overcome dissatisfaction with America’s two-party system.”
In an article published by the APM Research Lab, Eric Plutzer, Ph.D., the director of the poll, noted, “... many Americans are prioritizing fixing the system over any particular policy that might contribute to security, freedom, equality or prosperity. That’s a symptom of deep frustration with government and how it has been functioning — or not — lately.”
Check out the AMP Research Lab’s website to read the full report.
For the first time since 2013 and 2014, Republicans control the House while Democrats hold both the Senate and the White House. That means bipartisan collaboration will continue to be necessary to get things done. Thankfully, a handful of legislators from both chambers of Congress have started carving out opportunities to work together.
Here's a breakdown of bipartisan efforts in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Bipartisan efforts in the House of Representatives: Building off the success of the 117th Congress, the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress has been re-established. The bipartisan committee of lawmakers will continue bringing Congress into the 21st century through a wide range of recommendations, including improvements to outdated technology and addressing cultural and logistical problems, among many others. Of the 200 recommendations made by the previous Congress, 45 have been fully implemented, and 87 have been partially implemented. Check out our blog post to learn more.
Bipartisan efforts in the Senate: The centrist group “No Labels” convened a bicameral policy conference in Florida last weekend to discuss how the ideological center can break through in a divided Washington.
“We’re more focused on issues. Now, in focusing on issues, we obviously discuss the possibility of political agreements and negotiations,” Senator Susan Collins, R-ME, said in an interview with Politico. “In some ways, No Labels is designed for dealing with divided government.”
Meanwhile, in Alaska, an informal bipartisan caucus of 17 freshman legislators has been formed, prioritizing collaborating across party lines. In a recent article published in the Alaska Memo, Republican Rep. Justin Ruffridge stated:
“There may be times we vote together, times that we vote apart [...] Regardless of if we agree or disagree, I know we will maintain the highest level of respect for one another.”
The article continues on to state that “this particular class of freshmen this year — produced by the state’s new open primaries and ranked-choice voting — appears to so far be generally more moderate and open-minded than their predecessors, who were produced in the rancorous system of the semi-closed partisan primaries.” The creation of this caucus further illustrates the impact that the “Alaska Model” of voting has had on the state legislature.