Recall the recent history. At the end of the last Congress, as control of the House of Representatives shifted from one party to the other, No Labels lit a torch we called The Speaker Project. The House Problem Solvers Caucus translated our vision into an initiative they labeled “Break the Gridlock,” and became the first lawmakers since 1923 to use their votes for a new Speaker as leverage to achieve reforms in the way Congress works. Caucus members were attacked relentlessly by the extremes and pressured by leadership, but they held strong, and their leverage empowered them to win major procedural concessions, which have led to major bipartisan legislative accomplishments.
Most notable among the changes was the so-called “290 Rule” which guarantees that any bill with 290 co-sponsors must get consideration on the House floor and not be bottled up in committee. Another forces consideration of amendments co-sponsored by at least 20 members of each party. A third protects the Speaker from the pressure she or he might get from members on their partisan ideological fringe. These rule reforms, combined with the courage the Problem Solvers regularly display is fueling a bipartisan renaissance. If you know where to look, you see that clearly in the record of 2019.
The Problem Solvers’ success in 2019 is evidence that the cause of bipartisanship is poised for a comeback. No Labels’ success this year promises to provide momentum into 2020. Already, our 2019 efforts to establish a foundation in the Senate have begun to bear fruit, with Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) working with members of the House on a bipartisan, bicameral paid leave bill. We’re not far from building a beachhead in the Senate similar to the one we have helped establish in the House with the Problem Solvers.
All of this is to say that people who yearn for a return to bipartisanship need not despair today. We are making remarkable progress. As with the shifting fortunes of America’s cities, the dynamics on Capitol Hill can be changed if we continue to do the hard work of taking steps that empower leaders committed to the cause of bipartisanship. We all have a role to play, whether center stage or behind the scenes. But everyone involved should take heart in knowing that the work you have already done is paying off. Last year has offered a glimpse of what, given some luck and a much more work, is likely to come in the not-too-distant future.