In a divided Congress, there are still no-brainer bipartisan bills that can pass
With Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives and the government officially reopening, the 116th Congress can get to work in earnest. But now that the government is divided again, and with the memory of intense partisanship of other recent divided Congresses, passing sweeping legislation will be tough.
But believe it or not, there are major issues that affect the lives of millions of Americans that both parties agree on. It’s time for Congress to roll up its sleeves and actually get to work.
While some legislators would rather squabble over a border wall or government-run healthcare (both proposals that will likely never see the light of day, given how the government is divided), there are actually some legislators dedicated to solving problems. From Medicare fraud to government accounting and more, bipartisan agreements can be had if the leadership of both parties make them a priority.
Every year the National Taxpayers Union publishes a list of “ No Brainers” — legislation that has received bipartisan sponsorship, would be extremely easy to pass, and would fix real problems. This isn’t about renaming post offices or creating commemorative coins. These are real fixes.
For example, now-former Sen. Claire McCaskill was able to reach across the aisle for support for the Payment Integrity Information Act, which would require government agencies to follow commonsense recommendations from the Government Accountability Office and to use data analysis tools to find and prevent improper payments. Estimates are that the federal government makes more than $100 billion in improper payments every year — even a small cut in improper payments could save massive amounts of taxpayer money.
Or take the Fly Smart Act, co-sponsored in the last session of Congress by Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and John Kennedy, R-La. It would ensure that government officials traveling via commercial aircraft for official business take coach-class accommodations. There’s an exception for specific security concerns, but this is a good rule: In a time of trillion-dollar deficits, elected officials and public policymakers can set an example to constituents by being fiscally responsible when on official travel.
Policies like these and more would make a healthier backbone for bipartisanship than the seemingly endless squabbling over border security. (Is it a fence? Is it a wall? Will Democrats accept one more inch of wall? Will Republicans accept one more legal status for an immigrant?) These are also policies that have actually earned bipartisan support in the last Congress and should easily be able to garner the same kind of support in this session.
A Los Angeles Times analysis noted that the window for bipartisan policy to actually get passed will be closing quickly. The 2020 campaign season will be ramping up, and with it, it’s likely that Democrats will not want to be seen sponsoring or voting for a single piece of legislation that will be signed off on by Republicans or President Trump. Congress is back in session after a record-setting shutdown, and there is real bipartisan work that can be done.
It’s time for the legislators who care about actually making good policy to get to work.
Kevin Glass (@KevinWGlass) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner ‘s Beltway Confidential blog. He is vice president of communications and outreach for the National Taxpayers Union.