Lawmakers discuss how to curb partisanship

Lawmakers discuss how to curb partisanship
© Getty Images
Three House members, a Republican and two Democrats, discussed Wednesday the benefits of bipartisanship and how both sides of the aisle could learn to work together again.
Speaking at an event at the American University School of Public Affairs, Reps. Mia LoveLudmya (Mia) LoveUtah newspapers slam GOP’s Mia Love for 'deliberately deceptive' mailers 10 dark horse candidates for Speaker of the House Overnight Energy: Proposed rule would roll back endangered species protections | House passes Interior, EPA spending | House votes to disavow carbon tax MORE (R-Utah), Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralDem lawmaker to lead vigil in New York park following anti-immigrant rally Gillibrand: 'We should get rid of ICE' if Dems flip House and Senate NAACP statehood statement leaves Puerto Ricans perplexed MORE (D-N.Y.) and Darren SotoDarren Michael SotoParties fight for Puerto Rican vote in must-win Florida races Overnight Defense: Pompeo sees 'ways to go' before North Korea gives up nukes | Ex-astronaut slams Trump space force | Veteran's wife who faced deportation leaves for Mexico San Juan mayor endorses Nelson for reelection in Florida MORE (D-Fla.) decried the partisan tribalism that's become a staple in Congress and Washington in general.
Love (R-Utah) laid a big part of the blame for excessive partisanship on complex bills that gather different and potentially contradictory proposals in a single legislative vehicle.
"Here’s the problem in Washington: The bigger the bill, the more people who say 'I’m out' because there’s a dealbreaker there," she said at the event, which was put on by the Kennedy Political Union. 
Love added that a rebalancing of the roles of the legislative and executive branches was necessary for a more accurate representation of popular, as opposed to partisan, will in Washington.
"I get colleagues who say, 'you have to stand behind the president’s agenda.' Whether you like the president or not, he has to stand behind our agenda," she said.
The Utah Republican said the systematic transfer of power from Capitol Hill to the White House contributes to the partisan divide and is inconsistent with the spirit of the Constitution.
"We’re trying to do everything we can to remove that power that’s been consolidated in the White House," said Love.
Espaillat and Soto, both House freshmen and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said they'd welcome a more bipartisan environment, but had a different opinion than Love as to how that could be achieved.
Espaillat, a progressive who replaced former Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), said he was surprised at the degree of rancor on the House floor.
"I was a state legislator for 20 years, in the lower house and then as a senator, in Albany, where politics is a full-contact sport. But I was really surprised by the level of combativeness among both parties and extreme partisanship, even on the floor," he said. 
"What I felt would be considered out of decorum in Albany."
Soto, a member of the equal-parts-Republican-and-Democratic Problem Solvers Caucus, said he wasn't surprised at the partisanship on big issues, but pointed out the relatively easy procedure to clear run-of-the-mill legislation through Congress.
"My expectation was on the big issues it was going to be very partisan because the nation is divided," he said, adding that "bills are passing every day but they deal with commonsense things."
Soto said the current partisan climate is, in part, something voters chose.
"I view it kind of as pendulum politics," he said. "Right now it’s nasty because before that we had a president who was very inspiring and talked about taking the high road and I think a lot of Americans were looking for, apparently, something else."
But Soto said the way candidates run their campaigns also leaves a mark on the way elected bodies ultimately behave.
"The strongest force in politics is a well knowledgeable, inspiring candidate and ultimately elected official. That Jedi position is the strongest in politics, but it’s the hardest to do — you really need to know your stuff and you need to have a big vision," he said.
Espaillat added that a return to regular order for major legislation could improve the situation, giving the minority party a voice and turning the day-to-day debate away from politics and toward issues themselves.
"I am a Democrat because I believe in the traditional values of that party," he said. "When traditional values are touched, then there’s this very aggressive discourse and debate that pulls us apart, and voters don’t want that."
"We’ve got to promote a greater discussion among the issues, because it is politics that divides us," Espaillat added.