Believe it or not, something good is happening in Washington


As the coronavirus spreads, colleges close and stock markets gyrate, it’s easy to overlook something good that’s happening in Washington: a steady advance of results-oriented bipartisanship.

The main vehicle for this progress is the House Problem Solvers Caucus. Its 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans have proven their willingness to defy lockstep partisan loyalty so they can work across the aisle to tackle problems their party leaders are ignoring.

Ideological purists on the left and right would love to see the Problem Solvers fail. But the opposite is happening, as the caucus’s visibility and influence grows.

Case in point: 14 caucus members (evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats) recently met in the White House Situation Room with Vice President Mike Pence to discuss the urgent need for new funding to combat the coronavirus. Within days, the House had passed, and the president had signed, an $8.3 billion aid package.

This was significant in two ways. As head of the government’s efforts to combat the fast-moving virus, Pence can afford to meet only with groups that truly matter and can help advance the cause. And second, the Problem Solvers’ timely call for bipartisan cooperation was a much-needed rejoinder to irresponsible voices on the left and right that want to turn the pandemic into a partisan blame game.

“The American people rightly expect us to rise above partisan politics, unite together, and immediately pass an emergency funding bill to combat this threat to our country and families,” the caucus members said in a statement after the meeting.

The non-partisan group No Labels helped inspire the caucus’s creation several years ago. No Labels called the Pence meeting “another example of how indispensable the Problem Solvers are becoming. When bills must pass, the Problem Solvers are emerging as the go-to partner for leaders in Congress and the White House.”

This isn’t the first time the Problem Solvers have shown their muscle and effectiveness. At the start of the current Congress, they united and forced a change in the House rules (a tough achievement) that makes it harder for House leaders to quash legislation that has significant bipartisan support among rank-and-file lawmakers.

And last summer, the Problem Solvers ended an ideological impasse that was keeping much-needed humanitarian aid from reaching U.S. immigration operations at the southern border.

Now, No Labels and the House-based Problem Solvers Caucus are working to extend this can-do bipartisan spirit into the Senate. They hold monthly meetings in the Capitol with Republican and Democratic senators to brainstorm strategies for crafting legislation on important issues that can pass both chambers of Congress and get the president’s signature.

Yes, that’s how Congress is supposed to work. But as Americans have realized for years, our Congress is horribly gridlocked thanks to hyper-partisanship. Far too many lawmakers hew solidly left or right to avoid an ideologically driven challenger in their next party primary.

The most recent “bicameral/bipartisan” meeting was the largest yet, drawing healthy numbers of senators and House members from both parties. And they’re doing more than talk. They have formed working groups to draft legislation on several matters. This includes a bill to avert government shutdowns when congressional budget negotiations deadlock.

In another sign of this expanding bipartisan spirit, the bicameral meeting also drew Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, chairman of the National Governors Association. He said No Labels and the Problem Solvers Caucus are “dedicated to getting Washington back into the business of putting problem-solving ahead of partisanship.” As NGA chairman, Hogan said, he’s committed to “bringing together Republicans and Democrats to drive real action on the many challenges we face.”

These are busy, even scary times. As we scramble to keep our families, communities and society safe, let’s spare an upbeat moment to recognize that bipartisan courage and accomplishments are growing.

The coronavirus will eventually subside. Our country’s crippling hyper-partisanship will take longer to conquer. But the first steps are happening. It’s the only way our government can function, and it deserves our whole-hearted support.

Margaret White our executive director of No Labels.


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