Border funding bill's passage shows adroit leadership can move Congress beyond gridlock
By Nancy Jacobson
For The Hill
July 8, 2019
After years of the Democratic Party drifting to the left and the Republican Party tilting increasingly to the right, a ray of hope for America has come in the passage of the recent border emergency funding bill. In a rare handling of a contentious issue, both parties came together to pass billions of dollars of aid for those crossing the borders and those trying to manage the humanitarian crisis there.
It was not easy. Had the House’s bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus not asserted itself, the bill could be languishing even as conditions continued to deteriorate at the border. But those in Congress who wanted to get things done, who favored progress over partisanship, took a stand. They faced a lot of opposition, protests and false memes that flooded the internet.
Telegenic spokesmen on the left — often led by recently elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC — have dominated the media scene, with seemingly every word being broadcast across mainstream and social media. AOC has been treated as though she were the real leader of the Democratic Party and as though most voters in the party had joined the socialist movement.
But Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has handled the situation adroitly, acknowledging the hard left’s concerns but ultimately siding with the moderates on key issues such as the border funding bill. Pelosi notes that AOC and her compatriots may have a lot of Twitter followers but only a limited number of votes in the Democratic caucus. She put everything back in perspective.
Only 27 percent of Americans classify themselves as liberals. The largest group of voters are moderates, but they increasingly are forced to choose between conservative or liberal candidates. The two parties are not reflecting the electorate’s priorities, and Congress has been in near-perpetual gridlock.
Compromise — the bedrock of our checks-and-balances constitutional system — has become a dirty word. Republican and Democratic leaders too often embrace the notion that their members should oppose the other party at every turn, holding issues for talking points in the next election rather than working to resolve them. It puts politics and partisanship above country.
Pelosi is to be praised for working to, as she put it, get the best border bill she could, given the reality of GOP control of the Senate and White House. Importantly, the bill ultimately was supported by most Democrats in the House and the Senate. Pelosi recognized that the left should have a voice, but it must be a proportional voice.
With people suffering and the July 4 weeklong recess approaching, Pelosi acted. Now the question is: is this just a one-off, or is it possible that more issues can be resolved before the next election? There is a national consensus that we need an infrastructure bill, and that we need to make more progress on resolving the immigration issue. There’s another budget to be passed. Maybe we will have to wait for an election for health care, but we could still make progress on drug pricing and transparency.
It’s time for all elected officials, Democrats and Republicans, to realize that no matter how well the economy performs, voters want progress on other problems, and they want leaders who will meet each other half way to move the country forward. They essentially fired the House Republican leadership in 2018, and Pelosi realizes that the swing-voting public cares mainly about solving problems, not ideology. That’s the essence of our philosophy at No Labels.
The public has fair concerns about immigration, but they are not going to deport 11 million people. Voters want improved health care coverage, but they are not going to eliminate all private insurance. They think climate change is real, but they won’t go for sealing up all our oil wells.
The public wants action, but not extreme action. Leaders of both parties and the president must grasp this central fact, overrule their party’s extremists and accomplish real things for the real people in America. What happened with the border bill shows it is still possible to undo the gridlock that has plagued us for more than a decade and restore Congress to its rightful function of resolving differences, not standing on them.
Nancy Jacobson is a founder of the nonprofit organization No Labels. You can follow the organization on Twitter: @NoLabelsOrg.