Some Yogi-inspired advice for Congress
© Getty Images

June 27, 2013: The Senate passes a comprehensive immigration reform bill 68-32. All five Republican leaders vote "no." As of Oct. 19, 2015, House leadership has not taken up an immigration bill.

Here is a Politics 101 suggested lesson plan for the House Freedom Caucus. Insist that leaders authorize the consideration of a comprehensive immigration reform bill using regular order. All subcommittees of jurisdiction take up a legislative approach using the Senate bill as the committee marks up. Amend it or throw it out, but come up with something. Move on to the same process in full committee, then on to the House floor where amendments will be in order. Set a deadline of June 1, 2016, for the bill to be on the president's desk for him to sign or veto.

ADVERTISEMENT

Regarding the political process that should be followed: I teach my students that you can have the greatest idea since sliced bread, but if you can't get 217 House members, 60 senators and the president on board, then you can't win. That means that if you are a Republican, you need to get a Democrat to agree with you, because there has never been a law passed with only Democrats, or only Republicans, that turned out to be good for the country. That most certainly includes the latest attempt at the Affordable Care Act.

I mean no offense to those that sincerely believe nothing needs to be done to solve our immigration challenges. You have my total respect even though I strongly disagree with you. Since I once belonged to a gang of only 46 members (we were called "Boll Weevils" and a few other choice names), I understand your challenges in working with a president of the other party. I, too, have been greatly disappointed in President Obama's leadership or lack thereof on many issues, but that is really irrelevant. He is the president, and you have to get his vote. But first you have to get 217 votes in the House. An immigration bill would be a good start to use regular order.

But some are already thinking next year is an election year, and Congress does not do responsible things in years divisible by two. Well, I used that excuse once and was reminded by a sweet little lady that, though it was true, "Congress doesn't do any better in those years immediately preceding or following either."

Now let's consider the immediate challenges of the debt limit, a budget for 2016 and a highway bill, three issues that must be addressed by the end of 2015 or bad things will happen. To the Freedom Caucus: what are you for that can actually pass? We are all with you on freedom! What we Boll Weevils wanted were compromises that gave us at least 60 percent of what we wanted, and that we could defend to our constituents. That meant voting for some things that made some of our voters (left-wing Democrats and right-wing Republicans) very angry. But at least people knew where we stood because we had recorded votes, and they liked the results.

As a former member of Congress, I am puzzled and disappointed by the absence of vetoed bills by the president. We have all heard about how ObamaCare and now Planned Parenthood should be repealed. Even my class of college students understands that Congress does not have 290 votes in the House and 67 votes in the Senate to do that. A repeal is not possible! But replacing it with something better might have a chance.

Here are my suggestions for the 114th Congress in the remaining days of 2015 borrowed heavily from the wisdom of the baseball great Yogi Berra:

1. Pass a "clean" debt ceiling as soon as possible that will get us through November 2016. Berra was right: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it!"

2. Pass a budget that follows pay-as-you-go budgetary rules. If you are going to spend more on any program (no matter how worthy), you need to make a cut somewhere or raise taxes! Make it bipartisan, so if the president vetoes it, there are clearly delineated issues for voters to ponder. And even if it does get vetoed, just as Yogi said, "It ain't over till it's over!"

3. Everything should be on the table to start! Another gem of wisdom from Yogi: "I tell the kids, somebody's gotta win, somebody's gotta lose. Just don't fight about it. Just try to get better."

4. Save the big stuff for next year. Another piece of advice from Yogi: "You better cut the pizza into four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six!"

A final, priceless gem from Yogi for all 535 members of Congress and the president to ponder: "Slump? I ain't in no slump. I just ain't hitting!"

Stenholm is a former U.S. representative from Texas, serving from 1979 to 2005. He is currently a senior policy adviser at Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC.