Congress had a good couple of weeks — now let's keep it going

Congress had a good couple of weeks — now let's keep it going
© Greg Nash

Congress has spent most of the year failing to deliver on major public policy issues, but it is coming off a productive couple of weeks that produced real wins for the American people. 

Lawmakers passed and President Trump signed right-to try legislation that will give tens of thousands of terminally ill patients access to potentially life-saving treatment.


President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden administration still seizing land near border despite plans to stop building wall: report Illinois House passes bill that would mandate Asian-American history lessons in schools Overnight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he MORE also signed into law a measure that made some of the restrictions in the Dodd-Frank Act more equitable for small banks, a sector hit hard by the law and one that matters to Main Street because these are the banks that fund mom-and-pop businesses and entrepreneurial upstarts.


The same thing happened with the MISSION Act, which will allow more veterans the ability to receive the best care available, whether that’s from the Veterans Affairs Department health system or a doctor better suited to their particular medical needs.

The House passed prison reform legislation that would fund education, job training and substance abuse programs designed to decrease an absurdly high recidivism rate, with 68 percent of those who leave prison being rearrested within three years, and 83 percent within nine years.

Now, as wily veteran catcher Crash Davis reminded Nuke LaLoosh as the talented but inconsistent rookie pitcher was celebrating a rare one-two-three inning in the baseball classic "Bull Durham," the moment’s over.

Keep those good fastballs coming. There is still a lot that can be accomplished this year if Congress continues to focus on passing legislation that makes people’s lives better rather than scoring partisan political points.

This sort of production should be the norm for Congress, not the exception, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcCarthy and Biden haven't spoken since election Democrats roll out legislation to expand Supreme Court Wall Street spent .9B on campaigns, lobbying in 2020 election: study MORE’s cancelation of most of the August recess is a positive sign of that commitment. It’s called doing your job. So as lawmakers bear down between the Memorial Day and Fourth of July recesses, here’s what else they could do.

After passing a budget-busting spending bill for 2018, they have a chance to partially redeem themselves by passing a modest rescission package just shy of $15 billion that would mostly return to the Treasury previously appropriated money that was never spent. Cutting it now would prevent those funds from being shifted to other spending in the future.

After failing to pass a farm bill riddled with corporate welfare last month, Congress will try again. Instead, they should reform the wasteful programs that pay farmers not to farm, incentivize the consolidation of family farms, and raise the cost of food for everyone.

Come September, they’ll need to pass spending bills for 2019, presenting them with another chance to stop digging us deeper into debt, eliminate tens of billions of dollars in corporate welfare, and begin to address entitlement programs that make promises our country can’t keep to those who can least afford to find out they’ve been lied to.

Another major economic item on the agenda should be trade.

In light of President Trump’s imposition of tariffs on imported steel, aluminum and autos, Congress should revisit existing trade authorities under Section 232, which allows the president to adjust import rules based on national security concerns, a provision he dubiously cited in this case.

Imposing tariffs is like placing economic sanctions on ourselves. They drive up costs for all Americans. And while they might temporarily preserve a few jobs as a special favor to politically connected industries, they destroy many more.

While doing something about Dreamers — young undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children through no fault of their own — is first and foremost a moral issue, it also has an economic element. Creating a legal way for Dreamers to remain here is in the national interest of a country that benefits from their contributions, as students, workers, entrepreneurs and military service members.

In the case of some bills that moved, the battle is only half over.

The House has passed prison reform legislation that now awaits action in the Senate.

In other instances, bills became law but left more to do on the issue. Congress sent the bipartisan Dodd-Frank reforms to the president, but further financial industry overhaul is needed, particularly aimed at reining in some of the most egregious abuses of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that make credit more expensive or, in some cases, unavailable for many Americans.

The thing that distinguishes the most productive two weeks Congress has had in recent memory is that each of these policies will help people improve their lives. They make it more likely that people will help each other take care of their most critical needs. And get this, they were all done with broad support from people in both political parties — people who have important differences, but came together to do the right thing.

That’s how Congress can succeed. Set an agenda based on policies that help ordinary Americans succeed, recruit allies who support elements of that agenda, and get back to work for the American people. 

As they do, policymakers from both parties can count on the support of the organizations I represent, along with the thousands of financial supporters across the country that make our work possible, and millions of activists working tirelessly to support a society of mutual benefit where people succeed by creating value for others. 

James Davis is executive vice president of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, and a senior adviser to Americans for Prosperity, The Libre Initiative and Concerned Veterans for America, organizations and initiatives within the Seminar Network, often referred to as the “Koch Network.”