Narrowing the divide

NARROWING THE DIVIDE: No Labels Co-Founder Bill Galston believes the political divide has been widening for years, but offers ways to close it. “The people are sending a message — somewhere between a plea and a primal scream — to their representatives: Start taking responsibility for the consequences of polarization, and change your default setting from confrontation to compromise. If only it were that simple. Decades of mounting partisan division have left deep scars, not just in Washington but also in the electorate, and repairing the damage will be neither quick nor easy,” he says. Galston points to institutional reforms and focusing on issues that have support across the aisle: Bill Galston for The Wall Street Journal: How to Narrow the Widening Partisan Divide
BAYH ON DYSFUNCTION: No Labels supporter Sen. Evan Bayh was interviewed by the Chicago Policy Review and pointed to No Labels as a way to break through the gridlock. “We could also go a long way with a ‘Time Out,' which is what No Labels has called for under the name of ‘Jobs First.' This basically says we are having a stagnant argument in Washington where neither side can cause the other side to agree, so let’s call a time out for a year or so to give businesses some certainty to invest and hire and get the economy moving. The political dysfunction and the regulatory changes are major detractors from economic growth right now,” he said: Benjamin Stone for the Chicago Policy Review: A Path out of Gridlock? Perspectives from Senator Evan Bayh
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE PASSES SENATE: In a surprising move, the Senate advanced an unemployment insurance bill, with the final vote to come. Six Republicans joined Democrats to get the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster. The hard part for lawmakers now is figuring how exactly to pay for the $6.5 billion cost with the bill. The group of Senate Republicans who voted to advance the bill say they will not vote to pass it if the cost is not offset, and House Republicans are also eyeing a bill that has an offset for costs: Janet Hook for The Wall Street Journal: Jobless-Aid Bill Advances in the Senate
PICKING UP WHERE THEY LEFT OFF: A new year has not helped the relationship between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The two continued throwing verbal punches, which hurt their ability to work together in 2013. “The Senate hasn’t been run this way in its history. It’s really not the responsibility of the majority leader to tell the minority whether they can have votes. That’s not his job to dictate to us whether we can have votes or to decide for himself whether our amendments are appropriate to be considered,” McConnell said. Reid answered by saying, “Senator McConnell says that he wants to pay for these extended benefits … by whacking Obamacare. That’s a nonstarter. We know the Republicans are not going to allow us to close these long overdue tax loopholes. So they come up with all this chicanery like whacking Obamacare.” Burgess Everett for POLITICO: Harry Reid-Mitch McConnell feuding spills into 2014
STOPGAP BILL LOOKS MORE LIKELY: Appropriations negotiators remain at odds on many issues and it appears likely a stopgap spending bill will need to be passed to prevent a government shutdown next week. Leaders of the discussions had hoped to announce a deal on the 12-part omnibus spending package Wednesday, but differences still remain. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski says a deal can be announced as late as this weekend, but that will leave virtually no time for the $1 trillion package to be passed through regular procedures by January 15: Erik Wasson for The Hill: Stopgap looking more likely
FARM BILL INCHING FORWARD: After the disappointment of not passing the farm bill in 2013, Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and House Agriculture Chairman Frank D. Lucas have been in one-on-one negotiations for weeks — which may result in a deal soon. “House and Senate conferees are tentatively scheduled to meet Thursday to begin the final process of approving a bill that can be voted on by both chambers, senators and aides said. Leadership aides in both chambers indicated that the long-stalled legislation, which faltered in the House last session, could be sent to the president’s desk by the Martin Luther King Jr. Day recess,” write Meredith Shiner and Emma Dumain: Meredith Shiner and Emma Dumain for Roll Call: Farm Bill Nearing Home Stretch (Updated)
ACTION OF THE DAY: Washington Bureau Chief for The Wall Street Journal Jerry Seib joined Gov. Jon Huntsman on No Labels Radio to discuss what made 2013 such a dysfunctional year. Listen here.
STAT OF THE DAY: Forty-two percent of Americans identify as independents, a record high: Tal Kopan for POLITICO: Poll: Independents hit record high

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