As members of Congress begin what's expected to be the knock-down, drag out process of hearings on a new Supreme Court justice, two members of the elected elite sat down on WCCO's Real Talk with Roshini show to talk about something shocking in Washington.
The topic? How Dean Phillips, a Democrat from Minnesota, and Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Pennsylvania, work together on common goals. In today's heightened, hyper-partisan climate, it may seem like dogs and cats making friends, but the pair say it's a model more legislators need to emulate.
"Dean and I are very, very good friends," Fitzpatrick said on the show. "I grew to like Dean the second I met him. How can you not like him? He's a brilliant man, he's a consummate gentleman and a patriot. You know, if you talk to the people in our caucus, we feel that way about each other. We sort of resent the Hatfield-McCoy politics that many in both caucuses advance. It's just such a broken system down there."
They're united in an effort to return government to the people, Fitzpatrick said, and abolish old, archaic policies that reward party elites and donors instead of serving the people.
Phillips described the systematic separation of members of both parties as damaging to the country as a whole. Total separation based on party affiliation is a lesson he learned about when new members of Congress were whisked onto separate buses on day one in 2019, something that he said prevents sharing knowledge.
There's a fix: Working together.
"We've got to start applying kindergarten lessons to Congress," Phillips said.
To that end, both men are members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, which is described as "an independent member-driven group in Congress, comprised of representatives from across the country – equally divided between Democrats and Republicans – committed to finding common ground on many of the key issues facing the nation."
"Only when we work together as Americans can we successfully break through the gridlock of today’s politics," the caucus holds as its mission.
Specifically what that looks like is agreeing to "common sense" solutions, including these issues the Problem Solvers Caucus members agreed to find bipartisan solutions for:
Infrastructure: Despite overwhelming bipartisan support for reinvestment in America’s infrastructure, congressional gridlock has caused our nation’s highways, roads and bridges, transit and railways, ports and airports, and water and sewer systems to fall into disrepair. The Problem Solvers’ report, “Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure,” is a comprehensive bipartisan proposal that includes recommendations on building a twenty-first century infrastructure for a twenty-first century economy.
Criminal Justice Reform: Working with a bipartisan coalition, including Van Jones, Jared Kushner, Grover Norquist, and Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, the Problem Solvers Caucus helped Congress pass much-needed criminal justice reform to provide relief for those who earn and deserve a second chance.
Rules Reform: On January 3, 2019, the House enacted an unprecedented agreement made with Leader Pelosi and Rules Committee Chairman McGovern, known as “Break the Gridlock.” These commonsense congressional rule changes promote increased openness, bipartisanship, and transparency, by instituting a new “Consensus Calendar” for any bill with more than 290 cosponsors, requiring three days’ notice for Committee mark-ups, and preferential treatment for popular bipartisan amendments. For the first time in two decades, the new rules package received support from both Democrats and Republicans.
Gun & School Safety: The Problem Solvers Caucus agreed to support H.R. 4477, the Fix NICS Act of 2017; H.R. 4909, the STOP School Violence Act of 2018; H.R. 4811, the Securing Our Schools Act of 2018; and appropriations to fund mental health programs established by the 21st Century Cures Act, all of which were passed by the House of Representatives and Senate and signed into law.
Health Care: Beginning in the 115th Congress, the Caucus identified and promoted several commonsense proposals to help stabilize the individual health insurance marketplace and reduce health care costs, especially the price of prescription drugs.