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Posts Tagged ‘bipartisanship’

It’s the (lack of) unity, stupid!

November 5th, 2012

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This piece was originally featured on Reuters.

What we expect to hear in the closing days of a campaign is a call to arms.  Instead, what we’re hearing from both sides is a call to disarm.

“I’m going to have to reach across the aisle and meet with good Democrats who love America just like you love America,” Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney told a recent campaign rally in Virginia.  “And there are good Democrats like that.”

“In the end, we’re all in this together,” President Barack Obama said at a rally in Wisconsin.  “We rise and fall as one nation, one people.”

Why the sudden craving for unity?  Because that’s the issue that got Obama elected.  He became a star when he told the 2004 Democratic National Convention, “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America.  There’s the United States of America.” Read the rest of this entry »

MLPs: Leveling the Energy Finance Playing Field

June 8th, 2012

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By Jeremy Twitchell and Josh Freed

In a week rife with political bickering over government’s role in energy R&D, a bipartisan duo of senators proposed a tiny piece of legislation that could once and for all place fossil fuels and clean energy on the same playing field.

The Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act would allow clean energy projects to form under the same low-tax business structure that has enabled the oil and gas industry to raise $350 billion in private capital. As we noted in a Third Way report released in 2011, master limited partnerships, or MLP’s, are attractive to investors because they face the low tax rate of a partnership, but have the capitalization potential and liquidity of a publicly traded corporation.

With a 200-word tweak to the tax code, Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) propose to unleash a torrent of private investment on the clean energy market. If Congress has been running its energy policy like a beauty pageant, as the accusation goes, then this proposal puts every contestant behind a curtain and makes private investors – not Congress – the judges. Read the rest of this entry »

A civil action for SOTU

January 19th, 2012

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This piece originally appeared in Politico.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) have 28 years of Capitol Hill experience between them. Yet when these two supercommittee co-chairmen sat down for the panel’s opening meeting, it was the first time they ever met. Is it any wonder that the committee failed?

Third Way last week proposed three modest ideas based on a simple premise: Strangers make terrible legislators. We sent a letter to House and Senate congressional leaders, calling for concrete steps to improve civility, familiarity and discourse between members of opposing — and often warring — political parties. It’s an attempt to find an elixir to the poisonous atmosphere that has made Congress a non-functioning laughingstock.

The first idea is a repeat of a proposal we made last year, on the heels of the senseless shooting of Rep. Gabriel Giffords (D-Ariz.) and the deaths of six of her constituents. We again ask that Congress members sit together rather than in partisan enclaves during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address on Jan. 24.

Why do it again? For one, the spectacle of half the room leaping to its feet while the other sits glumly on its hands is just that – a spectacle. This one day, when the entire nation sits and listens to their president, Congress should appear as one body — not two sides.

This was a success last year. With the help of Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), more than 100 years of tradition was broken as members sat together during Obama’s address. There were surprising pairings, like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) kibitzing with the ultra-conservative Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). Several legislators – including Coburn – began relationships and partnerships with members of the opposing party whom they had routinely ignored.

For the public, the State of the Union became a more civil and adult affair, absent the “you lie” shouts and the whack-a-mole quality, where members popped up and down on cue to register approval or disapproval of the president’s remarks.

Second, we ask for a smack talk ceasefire. For 24 hours leading up to the State of the Union, we ask that members of Congress, the president, candidates, and super-PACs speak only about the merits of their ideas — not the demerits of the opposing party’s ideas.

We’re not saying that parties and politicians shouldn’t disagree. We merely ask that for one day out of 366, this disagreement be voiced solely by making the positive case for one’s own ideas.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans have a monopoly on the best ideas. For a day, instead of concentrating on the best attack line – let’s listen to the other side’s case. It may make for fewer fireworks on cable broadcasts, but it will likely ensure a more informed electorate.

Third, we suggest that the House and Senate each reserve one weekend every year where members of Congress and their families spend time together and get to know one another. In 1787, Americans with great regional differences and viewpoints gathered for four months and created a blueprint for the nation. Congress ought to emulate this common love of nation to come together as fellow citizens and form the personal bonds necessary to cooperate with those of other viewpoints.

A retreat won’t make disagreements melt away, but it’s harder to vilify and objectify those you know. Our legislative process could only become better as we learn more, and listen more attentively, to those we have chosen to spar.

The United States faces immense challenges. Our budget deficit is huge. Our economy is sputtering. Our competitors are gaining on us. Our middle class is shrinking. Our entitlements are growing. Our tax code is failing. It is hard to imagine a group of bickering strangers solving America’s most pressing problems.

For the past several decades, the rancor and partisanship in Washington seems to get worse as the need for our government to function better increases. In the meantime, Americans ‘views of Congress hit new lows.

Our modest proposal: Sit together, not apart. Talk to each other, don’t yell. Know each other, don’t be strangers.

Jon Cowan is president and Jim Kessler is senior vice president of Third Way. other, don’t be strangers.

Reflective Politics

April 4th, 2011

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The U.S. Constitution requires consensus. It divides power between two houses of Congress and three branches of government. They all have to agree.

And if they don’t — like now? It doesn’t work. “You are not going to solve any big problems without some sort of consensus,” former Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei (N.Y.) said. “That means you have to have bipartisans and moderates. Otherwise one side is going to undo what the other side did.”

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Why the president’s budget is a success

February 22nd, 2011

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This piece was originally published in The Hill.
A president’s budget is only as good as the debate that it engenders. After all, Congress doesn’t even have to vote on it, and it rarely does.

Measured by this standard, President Obama’s budget is a resounding success. Republicans have tagged it as a job-killer. Deficit hawks say it doesn’t go far enough. Budget doves fear the impact of cuts to heating assistance and numerous other programs.

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The Deepening Partisan Divide

January 8th, 2010

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This piece was originally published in National Journal.

Want to see bipartisanship? Look at the congressional votes in 1935 to establish Social Security. The measure got almost unanimous support from Democrats: 95 percent of House Democrats and 98 percent of Senate Democrats voted to create the safety net for the elderly. Republican support was also overwhelming: 84 percent of House Republicans and 76 percent of Senate Republicans voted for the new program.

Want to see bipartisanship again? Look at the Medicare votes of 1965. Once again, Democrats were nearly unanimously supportive (83 percent in the House, 89 percent in the Senate). This time, Republicans were more closely divided but still delivered significant support: 70 GOP House members (51 percent) and 13 Republican senators (43 percent) voted for Medicare.

Want to see bipartisanship vanish? Look at the 2009 votes on health care reform. The House measure passed in November with the support of 85 percent of Democrats but only one of 177 Republicans. Last month’s Senate vote on health care reform was totally polarized: All 60 Democrats voted yea; all 39 Republicans present voted nay.

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