A Divided Government Can Work – and Succeed: Here’s How in Government Reform, Higher Education, Infrastructure, Paid Family Leave

Our nation is in the midst of a hyper-partisan era. While many may wonder if a newly divided government will contribute to further dysfunction, in our nation’s history, divided governments have often been the most productive and successful. As President George H.W. Bush exemplified with his leadership working across the aisle on issues like clean air legislation, bipartisan consensus building and achievements are possible during a divided government.

As BPC President Jason Grumet mentions in Roll Call op-ed, there is only one real mandate for the 116th Congress: for Democrats and Republicans to work together to resolve some of our nation’s problems. And it should do so by building off the current Congress’s successes of finding feasible, not comprehensive, solutions to kitchen-table issues to which all Americans can relate, like the opioids epidemic and our water resources. There are several areas—including infrastructure, higher education, paid family leave, and congressional reform—that have garnered bipartisan interest and are ready for action in the new Congress. The time to act is now, and BPC Action stands ready to help the incoming 116th Congress achieve bipartisan successes on these issues.

Areas Ripe for Bipartisanship

  • Infrastructure: Infrastructure is an area prime for bipartisan agreement. President Trump, Sen. McConnell, and Rep. Pelosi have all stated that a bipartisan infrastructure deal is a priority in the new Congress.Click here to read more.
  • Higher Education: According to a 2018 Pew Research poll, the majority of Americans in both parties say the United States’ higher education system is heading in the wrong direction, making this a key issue primed for action. Senate Health, Education, Pensions and Labor Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Sen. Patty Murray have a history of striking bipartisan agreement on challenging issues, including healthcare and opioids. Click here to read more.
  • Paid Family Leave: Americans from both parties widely support paid family leave. This summer, the Bipartisan Policy Center hosted an event with Ivanka Trump, advisor to President Trump, former Sens. Chris Dodd and Rick Santorum, and leading policy experts, who discussed the importance of paid family leave and the opportunity for both parties to work together to develop a national policy. Click here to read more.
  • Congressional Reforms:

Revitalizing Congress through a New Committee on the Organization of Congress
With most Americans viewing Congress unfavorably, it is time to rebuild public trust and restore individual members’ roles in the legislative-making process through a new committee dedicated to reforming Congress.

The Committee on the Organization of Congress is not a new concept: in fact, there have been three since 1945 with the last one in 1993. Composed of an equal number from each party and chamber, this long-overdue committee would examine Congress’s rules and procedures and propose comprehensive reforms to make the institution more efficient, effective, and accountable to the American people. Click here to read more.

Improving Congress’s Functioning in a Polarized Environment

BPC’s Commission on Political Reform, which includes former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle and Trent Lott, former Representative and Secretary Dan Glickman, and former Senator Olympia Snowe, championed specific reforms that will help make Congress work in today’s polarized political atmosphere. They include:

  • Building bipartisanship through informal gatherings and regularized meetings with joint party caucuses and joint leadership
  • Establishing synchronized House-Senate schedules with five-day workweeks
  • Re-empowering committees to lead in forging legislation and authorization bills
  • Giving members a greater say on legislation through a more open amendment process and ensuring sufficient time for bills to be posted before votes
  • Eliminating the filibuster on the motion to proceed
  • Adopting a biennial budget process 
  • Reviving ethics in campaign politics by limiting congressional leadership PACs

Click here to read more.