Opinion | White House

Feehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds

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

Infrastructure is the way to pick up the pieces, post-impeachment.

We all know how this is going to play out.

The Democrats will pass a couple of articles of impeachment sometime in December.

The Senate will dispense with them after either a short or long trial, depending on the Democratic front-runner to replace Donald Trump.

After the House impeaches the president, the Congress will complete work on the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement and pass spending bills to keep the government open.

But USMCA and an omnibus are not sufficient to heal the wounds from impeachment.

After the House impeached and the Senate acquitted Bill Clinton, then-Speaker of the House Denny Hastert (R-Ill.) and then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) searched for a way to show the country that they were ready to do the work of the American people.

They settled on a four-point agenda to secure America's future. The agenda included promises to restore our nation's military, improve education, keep the economy moving with targeted tax relief and reform our health care system.

Having a four-point plan that unified Republicans was smart politically, but it wasn't sufficient to show the country that Republicans and Democrats could come together and get something done for the good of the country.

Hastert and Clinton, along with Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), would later work together on a plan to revitalize our inner-cities with Jack Kemp-inspired opportunity zones, combined with a New Markets initiative dreamed up by Gene Sperling, the president's economic advisor.

The efforts to rebrand the Republican Party less as a motley crew of extremist impeachers and more a responsible group of common-sense conservatives who could find common ground with President Clinton worked well enough for the GOP to keep the House, narrowly keep the Senate and eke out the barest of electoral victories at the presidential level.

For President Clinton, working with the Republicans helped to clean up his image, and he left office far more popular than when he was first elected.

It is in the best interests of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and President Trump to find something, anything, to work together on and deliver for the American people. It has to be big enough to actually matter to the average voter. It has to be bipartisan enough to make getting a deal possible. And it should be constructed so that all three leaders have the ability to claim victory.

It is unlikely that Republicans and Democrats will come together on any kind of major health care reform agreement. There has been a lot of talk about a plan to dramatically reduce drug prices, but anything that House Democrats could support would be unpalatable to the vast majority of Senate Republicans.

A higher education reauthorization is possible, but any deal that Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) would craft would have to be necessarily limited. Republicans will never agree to the pie-in-the-sky plans being pushed by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Only an aggressive infrastructure plan that rebuilds our crumbling roads, bridges, airports, waterways and our communications networks will garner attention and support from the vast middle of the country.

Moving to infrastructure immediately after the president is acquitted by the Senate would help the 31 Democrats who currently reside in Trump districts. It should help vulnerable Senate Republicans like Susan Collins (Maine), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Cory Gardner (Colo.), all of whom have plenty of swing voters in their states who want to see progress on core priorities.

For President Trump, signing infrastructure legislation will cement his reputation as a builder and job-creator, somebody who cares about bringing jobs back to America. Sure, the president wants to build a wall, but what if he could be credited for building better roads and more efficient energy infrastructure.

Picking up the post-impeachment pieces will be essential for congressional leaders and for the president. Investing in infrastructure is the best way to bring America back together.

Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at www.thefeeherytheory.com. He served as spokesman to former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) when he was majority whip and as a speechwriter to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).