Compromise is the key to moving forward after Trump's first 100 days
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As we near the end of the first 100 days of the Trump administration, more Americans are looking to Congress for leadership than ever before — whether to advance the agenda of the president they elected or to stop it in its tracks.

The contrast between these two camps has created a stark congressional reality. There has not been a single domestic issue put forward this year on which the White House, the Senate, and the House could reach true bipartisan compromise.

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On one hand, Republicans can claim some success in that Congress has confirmed nearly all of the Trump cabinet, repealed several regulations under the Congressional Review Act, and confirmed Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

 

On the other hand, the Republican majority must grapple with the fact that it could not reach internal party consensus on the issue of legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, action it has pledged to accomplish for constituents for six straight years. It turns out conflict is easy. Consensus is hard.

How does Congress get to consensus? Three key ingredients seem necessary: the right issues, a desire to compromise, and the right people leading the effort.

First, one must tee up the right issues for compromise. The right issues, and the ones most affecting voters, are clearly economic. Despite recent economic growth, all Americans, especially the middle class, worry about their jobs, their ability to afford housing, and how to pay for an education for their kids. The issues that will lead to consensus are surely economic and can be brought before Congress this year in many forms, including tax reform that reduces individual tax rates, infrastructure investments that create new jobs, and growth policies that support American jobs.

Second, a desire by Republicans and Democrats to compromise on these issues is harder. Compromise rarely comes easily. But it can be done. It happened under President Clinton and produced welfare reform. It happened under President George W. Bush and produced Medicare Part D. And it happened after 9/11 and produced a united White House and Congress that passed legislation that helped keep America safe for years and years. It can happen again.

The third and final ingredient to congressional consensus is putting the issues before the leaders who can truly achieve that compromise. Smart statesmen know the consequences of political warfare, but even more keenly understand the need to compromise to help all Americans. In this case, those leaders are Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — McConnell, Kaine offer bill to raise tobacco buying age to 21 | Measles outbreak spreads to 24 states | Pro-ObamaCare group launches ad blitz to protect Dems MORE and Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE. The path forward for congressional consensus and economic legislation that will benefit all Americans goes through to the offices of these two veteran American leaders.

Despite their political differences, Leaders McConnell and Schumer have much in common, including a deep and abiding concern for the economic realities of the poor and the middle class. They know that Americans who crave economic security for their families are all the same, whether Trump voters in Michigan, McConnell voters in Harlan, Kentucky, or Schumer voters in Brooklyn, New York.

On these issues, the voices of Republican and Democratic constituents are clear: compromise is not ancillary to congressional success. It is central. It is not found on the right or the left, but in the middle, where common interests reside.

In some circles, though, compromise has become a dirty word. An October 2015 Associated Press-GfK poll showed a majority of Democrats nationwide favoring compromise and more than half of Republicans opposed. Under President Trump, however, Democrats increasingly report they believe their leaders should not seek compromise, as evidenced in a recent Gallup poll.

The reluctance of voters in both parties to embrace compromise speaks to the reality that many elected representatives face, where compromise is equated with failure or a betrayal of principle and there is little room to maneuver between a small but vocal number of hard-liners on the left and right. And yet, at the same time, more than seven in 10 Americans said they wanted the president to try to reach bipartisan compromise on legislation he seeks to push through Congress, according to a CNN-ORC poll in March.

Americans are looking to Washington to take action on the economic issues that keep them up at night. They are looking for solutions to address the decline of the American manufacturing base or the need for access to quality education to retrain the workers of the future to have the skills of the future.

Congressional compromise, like all things in life, begins with one step at a time. It may not happen overnight, but it can only happen if the right issues are brought to the forefront by the right leaders at the right time.

James G. Flood is a partner and chair of the government affairs group at Crowell & Moring. He served as counsel to Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE (D-N.Y.).

W. Scott Douglas is a senior policy director at Crowell & Moring. He served as finance director for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).


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