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Throw them out: Congressional leaders of both parties fail voters


Donald Trump, the least popular president in history, continues to slide in popularity. The latest Gallup poll has 60 percent of Americans disapproving of the job he’s doing, and only 34 percent approving.

But Trump’s not alone. Gallup also finds that 79 percent disapprove of the job Congress is doing, while only 16 percent approve.  

The reason? In a word, partisanship. That’s why Congress needs to replace its current leaders — Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell — with leaders who have a history of bipartisan success.

{mosads}As the Lugar Center points out, Congress’s partisan behavior has made Americans suffer. It has impaired our political process, subordinated good governance to politics, and intensified divisiveness in American society. The interests of ordinary Americans have been sacrificed to politicians’ fixation on keeping campaign promises and maintaining or winning control of Congress. 

Congress has repeatedly failed to pass an annual budget resolution. It was unable to enact long-term deficit reduction or to avoid the 2013 government shutdown.  This year, partisan obstructionism has already stifled healthcare reform and will likely impede other priorities Americans need Congress to act on. 

Both parties are guilty. This summer House Republicans drafted their healthcare bill in secrecy, excluding Democratic input, and passed it unilaterally, setting it up for failure in the Senate. Some stressed that this was unprecedented.  “I’ve never seen anything like it, as far as the secrecy,” said Paul Ginsburg, a health policy expert at the University of Southern California.

Yet it wasn’t much different from what happened in 2010, when House Democrats approved ObamaCare over unanimous Republican opposition, and the Democratic-controlled Senate followed suit, voting it up along party lines, 60-39. 

This year Democrats were split on whether to join discussions on repealing and replacing ObamaCare, but in 2010 the Republican minority spurned Democrats’ invitation to participate in healthcare discussions.  Then House Minority Leader John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell ruled out any cooperation. Boehner promised that the House Republicans would “… do everything — and I mean everything we can do — to kill it stop it, slow it down, whatever we can.” 

The same attitude applied to pretty much everything on Obama’s agenda. McConnell even refused to schedule a hearing on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.  He declared in 2010, while Americans were struggling to cope with the effects of the financial crisis, that “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” 

But now the shoe is on the other foot, the Democrats are sabotaging the majority. Democratic Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (on the Budget Committee) and Terri A. Sewell (on the Ways and Means Committee) came up with a tactic sure to stymie Republican efforts to deliver tax reform: they demand any changes to the tax code be delayed until Congress can review Trump’s tax returns to see how he might benefit personally.

One would think that rebuilding our infrastructure is something both parties could agree on. Sadly, they don’t. Democrats staunchly oppose Trump’s infrastructure plan, which emphasizes privatization. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer bellowed that toll road privatization would enrich financiers and stick average citizens with the bill, calling it a “tax giveaway for wealthy developers and banks,” and “a private money-making operation for the big business buddies of the president,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said, “They plan to give away billions of dollars to Wall Street banks and foreign investors.”

Not only is this pure obstructionism, these broadsides about giveaways and windfalls are untrue. Big business, developers and banks have lost billions on privatizing toll roads. The Congressional Budget office found that infrastructure privatization is often a bad deal for investors.

If we want to tackle healthcare, tax reform, infrastructure spending and other priorities, we need leaders in Congress who can engender bipartisan cooperation and heal some of the divisiveness that has gripped the country.  

Most Americans don’t believe handing the gavel back to Democrats would accomplish that. A recent CBS News poll found that only 31 percent thought Democratic control of Congress would be an improvement. Other polls indicate Americans want more bipartisanship in government. 

A good place to look for new Congressional leadership is the Lugar Center’s ranking of members of the House and Senate according to their bipartisan achievements — how often each member co-sponsored a bill introduced by the other party and how often a member’s own bills attracted co-sponsors from the other party. 

Congress’s current leaders have not only failed to pass important legislation, they’ve exacerbated the ugly divisiveness within Congress. They should all be replaced, and their leadership positions filled with members who rank high as bipartisan achievers.

Since Congress’s approval ratings are dismally low and even worse than Trump’s, America seems more than ready for the change.

Neil Baron advised the SEC and congressional staff on rating agency reform. He represented Standard & Poor’s from 1968 to 1989, was Vice Chairman and General Counsel of Fitch Ratings from 1989 to 1998, and was on the board of Assured Guaranty for a decade.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill. 

Tags Boehner Chuck Schumer Chuck Schumer Congress Congress approval rating congressional leadership Donald Trump John Boehner John Boehner Mitch McConnell Mitch McConnell Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Paul Ryan Trump approval rating United States federal government shutdown

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