Senate Democrats and Republicans took a significant step this week to advance a bipartisan infrastructure package. However, the deal is far from done.
The Senate's 67-32 vote Wednesday cleared the first procedural hurdle and put lawmakers on track to begin debate on the $1 trillion proposal soon. This development was a big win for congressional bipartisanship at a time when cooperation between the two parties is rare.
But despite being negotiated by a bipartisan group of 22 senators, the infrastructure deal still received harsh criticism from both the right and the left. And some lawmakers were also hesitant to support the deal because the legislation has yet to be written.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas was one of the Republicans concerned with the lack of drafted legislation. "I'm encouraged that our colleagues have gotten us this far, but the bill's not ready, and we need to see the text and be given adequate time to read it," he said on the Senate floor Wednesday.
Because the bill has yet to be drafted, the exact investments and cost off-sets are not set in stone. Those details are likely to determine how many Republicans ultimately support the package, promising a rocky path forward as debate on the legislation begins.
While former President Donald Trump has already attempted to throw a wrench into negotiations by urging GOP lawmakers not to support the deal, lawmakers on the left aren't fully on board either.
Along with the infrastructure bill, Democrats are pushing a second $3.5 trillion package that includes other priorities for the Biden administration, such as expanding Medicare, support for families and children, and combating climate change. Democrats have said they want to move both packages in tandem.
However, on Wednesday, Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, one of the lead architects of the infrastructure deal, said she would not support the $3.5 trillion price tag for the second package. Democrats plan to use the reconciliation process for the second bill because such a maneuver cannot be blocked by a filibuster — but would likely require every Democrat to vote for it.
In response, progressive lawmakers pushed back, saying they would not support an infrastructure deal without the reconciliation package.
"The votes of the Congressional Progressive Caucus members are not guaranteed on any bipartisan package until we examine the details, and until the reconciliation bill is agreed to and passed with our priorities sufficiently funded," the caucus chair, Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, wrote in a statement.
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York more pointedly criticized Sinema for her stance.
Good luck tanking your own party’s investment on childcare, climate action, and infrastructure while presuming you’… https://t.co/irsrXS0s8A— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)1627498173.0
While bipartisan agreement on infrastructure has proved difficult to achieve in Congress, recent polls have repeatedly shown a majority of Americans support such an investment in the country's roads, bridges, railways and broadband.
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Anderson edited "Leveraging: A Political, Economic and Societal Framework" (Springer, 2014), has taught at five universities and ran for the Democratic nomination for a Maryland congressional seat in 2016.
As we celebrate our independence this month, the vast majority of Americans need to decide to reframe our country.
The polarization narrative has a stranglehold on Washington and the American people. It is nothing less than the reigning paradigm of American political thought. This is unfortunate because the paradigm is misguided, even though there are certainly pockets of polarization throughout the country and considerable hostility between the most vocal elements of both the Democratic and Republican parties, inside and outside Washington.
We need a new paradigm to reframe what America is. There are three main themes that need to be addressed.
The polarization theme is the first.
Poll after poll, survey after survey, show widespread agreement on many major policy debates, including the need for immigration reform with a path to citizenship, protection of Social Security and Medicare, massive investment in infrastructure, funding for paid parental leave, reforming the criminal justice system, confronting climate change, significant support for child care for the middle class as well as the working class and the poor, and more.
One-third of the 240 million members of the American electorate did not vote in 2020, and 44 percent of Americans, according to the latest Gallup poll, regard themselves as independents. Today only 53 percent of Republicans still believe Donald Trump is the rightful president, whereas this figure was in the 70 percent to 80 percent range in November and December.
That figure is nothing to boast about from the standpoint of national health, but when only 25 percent of the electorate identify as Republicans this means about 13 percent of the electorate do not think Biden is the rightful president. That is nothing to brag about if you think Trump is the rightful president.
The idea that we are a country where Democrats are pit against Republicans the way Southerners were pit against Northerners prior to The Civil War is plainly false. Most of us sit somewhere between the two 20-yard lines of a football field. The media and the politicians, however, give most of their attention to the extremists, especially when it comes to getting elected in primaries and most especially in House primaries in gerrymandered districts.
The polarization narrative is one part of the poor framework used for understanding our country of 330 million people who are a complex mix of urban, suburban and rural voters with ever increasing minority representation.
Washington is definitely polarized as the Democratic and Republican parties are engaged in a bitter battle that concerns not only policy differences but a titanic struggle over the 2020 presidential election and the laws — federal, state and local — that should govern elections. It is the American people who are not.
A second part of the process of reframing America is to accept the fact that we do not live in a society with a capitalist economy. We must acknowledge that we live in a society with a mixed economy. From the New Deal to the Great Society we morphed into a "mixed economy," one in which the government intervenes in a very substantial way in the private sector. We have a massive system of regulation and redistribution, one that gave us and in most cases still gives us everything from Social Security and Medicare to the Affordable Care Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Labor Relations Act, the Violence Against Women Act and the Interstate Highway Act.
We, and many other countries, rejected both capitalism and socialism in the 20th century and carved out a middle ground. We do not have a "capitalist mixed economy," which is what most economists would say. We have a mixed economy, plain and simple. When you mix chocolate cake and vanilla cake you get marble cake, and when you mix capitalism and socialism you get a mixed economy.
One of the chief reasons we need to jettison the concept (and word) of "capitalism" is that it enables Republicans to provide a wrongheaded critique of Democrats as raging "socialists" who have rejected capitalism. Since neither the country nor most Republicans are capitalists in any interesting sense of the term, Republicans need to be denied the opportunity to falsely label Democrats as socialists during candidate campaigns. (Less than 5 percent self-describe that way.)
If the public — especially the moderates and centrists, many of whom are independents — could come to understand that our political-economic system is not capitalist or socialist in any interesting sense of the term, then they would not be swayed by unfair, grossly inaccurate labeling and fear-mongering by the hard right.
The third element of the new framework concerns public policy debates about the size of the federal government. It is time to drop it.
In the 21st century, the pressing issue about our federal government must not be framed in terms of its size, although of course there are major questions about the nature and extent of federal spending. Instead, the driving issue is more nuanced and indeed pervasive. It concerns whether the federal government effectively leverages resources across federal agencies to solve problems that cannot be solved by one agency alone, including climate change, systemic racism, family policy, job creation, infrastructure and the pandemic crisis itself.
Leveraging — resource leveraging, financial leveraging and bargaining leveraging — is the dominant way companies, nonprofits, politicians and individuals get things done today. When the Cold War ended, the nuclear family declined and information technology revolutionized business, politics and personal life, traditional lines of authority dissolved.
This was an invitation for resource leveraging, especially of the internet and social media, to take off: If you can no longer order people and countries what to do and your bargaining leverage is weakened, you need to leverage resources to get things done. The most obvious form of resource leveraging is leveraging government investment to generate private investment on a public works project. A reframed America will integrate the concept of resource leveraging across Cabinet departments into the entire framework.
We need to throw out concepts about our country that undermine our ability to live and work together with dignity, compassion and common purpose. It is time to reframe America.
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Organizer: Millennial Action Project
Each summer the Millennial Action Project (MAP) hosts the nation's largest bipartisan convening of young legislators at Future Summit. Because we're going virtual for this year's Future Summit, we are able to offer an opportunity for you to get involved in Future Summit!
We are thrilled to announce that Julie Chávez Rodriguez, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House, will be joining us on July 30, 2021. Director Julie Chávez Rodriguez's role as director is to engage with State, Local, and Tribal governments for the most effective State and Federal cooperation.
Since last year's election, state legislatures have been advancing changes to voting and election rules along one of two divergent paths. Democrats are seeking expansions, like no-excuse absentee voting, while Republicans are pushing for increased security measures, like voter ID requirements.
In much of the country, one side can easily have its way without even attempting to reach across the aisle because one party controls both the legislature and the governorship. And in the 12 states with divided governments, too often there is contention rather than compromise.
Some purple states, like Kentucky and Vermont, have leaned into compromise and enacted bipartisan election reforms. But in other states, like Pennsylvania, partisan infighting is overriding any potential for collaboration.
Last week, Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania passed a sweeping election overhaul through both legislative chambers. The measure includes provisions that have bipartisan support, such as expanded in-person early voting. But it would also mandate some form of voter ID and set tighter deadlines for absentee voting, which Democrats say would be burdensome for voters.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolfe has promised to veto the bill, so Republicans are now pivoting to a new plan. They want to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot, asking voters whether an ID should be required to cast a ballot.
A June poll conducted by Franklin and Marshall College found that nearly three-quarters of Pennsylvanians favored a photo ID requirement at the polls. Republicans were overwhelmingly in favor of this reform (95 percent). A majority of independents were also supportive (77 percent). But most Democrats don't want a photo ID requirement; only 47 percent of them were in favor. The survey of 444 registered Pennsylvania voters was conducted June 7-13. The margin of error was 6.4 percentage points.
Most states with voter ID laws have policies in place to ensure election integrity while still giving voters flexibility, Liz Avore, vice president of law and policy at the Voting Rights Lab, wrote in a recent post about a proposed national voter ID law.
If Congress were to draft such a measure, it should take two things into consideration, she said. First, voters should be allowed to prove their identity through a variety of documents, such as utility bills, bank statements or paychecks. And secondly, election officials need to be able to verify a person's identity in case they do not have the necessary documents with them when trying to vote. Verification can be done using information such as date of birth, mother's maiden name or the last four digits of their Social Security number.
While efforts to reform voting rules in many states and Congress have stalled due to partisan disagreements, there are some states where collaborative progress is being made.
In April, Kentucky made early in-person voting a permanent fixture in its elections, after temporarily allowing it in 2020. The measure passed with near unanimous bipartisan support in the GOP-majority General Assembly before being signed by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.
Earlier this month, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, signed into law a measure that mandates automatically sending every registered voter an absentee ballot for statewide general elections. The legislation garnered bipartisan approval in the General Assembly.
Also this month, Maine lawmakers advanced a bill that would allow voters not registered with a major party to cast a ballot in a primary election.
These advancements, in addition to being bipartisan, were also innovative in ways that were best for each state and its election system, said Audrey Kline, national policy director at the National Vote at Home Institute.
"There are definitely ways that we're seeing election policy headed in opposite directions, but there are definitely these other areas ... that really do have a lot of bipartisan agreement and that we can move forward on expanding access in those policy areas," Avore said.
Kline and Avore both identified some ways states can both bolster security without hindering voter access. For instance, states could:
- Implement electronic monitoring of drop boxes.
- Create signature verification systems for absentee ballots.
- Give election officials more time to process and count absentee ballots before Election Day.
- Establish a ballot tracking system.
- Ensure a paper trail for all ballots.
"We believe that all of these things tie together to create a real system that is safe, fair and accessible," Kline said. "But it does take commitment. You have to commit political capital, you have to commit actual capital. It does cost money if you want to do it really well."
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