Although the last Congress was the least productive Congress in recent history, this new Congress isn't shaping up much better. Previously the domain of many Republicans, some Democrats have now adopted the mantle of "all-or-nothing" political brinksmanship, employing the same obstructionist methods that drove a government shutdown and a complete collapse in American trust in government.
The battle over the Trans-Pacific Partnership fast-tracking authority was a prelude of what was to come, and now both parties are gearing up for a multitude of political battles coming in the near future:
"A summer of gridlock is bearing down on Washington, threatening to put an end to the burst of legislative productivity that kicked off Mitch McConnell’s reign atop the Senate. Minority Leader Harry Reid foreshadowed the shift recently with vows to essentially shut down the appropriations process and block highway and defense bills unless Republicans move markedly to the left." - Politico
The endless cycle of partisanship and gridlock has renewed itself once again, as some Democrats have adopted the same damaging, irresponsible tactics that they derided when holding the majority, while Republicans, in their criticism of the Democrats, have selectively forgotten how gleefully they employed the same tactics less than twelve months ago.Americans deserve better than this. It is not just the hypocrisy of both sides in flipping roles. It is not just their
complete disregard for public opinion, or the fact that continued use of these tactics further damages American trust in government, something no democracy can function without. Americans deserve a Congress that simply does its job -- that fulfills its most basic roles without creating more problems. Americans deserve a Congress that is not constantly teetering on the edge of collapse.
This isn't to say that the Democrats or the Republicans should cave to the other's demands, but rather than demanding "all-or-nothing," our leaders should seek compromise. They should address the issues head on, maturely assess their positions, and recognize that their first responsibility is to the people. Each senator is elected as a leader; it is time they acted like leaders.
None of this will ever change without substantial political pressure, and that starts with you, the voter. If you are sick of seeing Congress accomplish nothing but making things worse, now is the time to act before the season of gridlock begins. Keep it simple -- call your senator's D.C. office and demand that they assume the responsibilities of leadership. Not sure how to get started? We are here to help.
Know Your Issues
When you call, make sure you know what you are talking about, and identify clear problems that your senator should address. Here is a list to get you started:
- A national defense authorization bill is being contested -- Harry Reid has called this bill being pushed by Republicans "a waste of time." The White House has pledged to veto it, and pledged to block Republican spending bills and an extension on highway funding unless Republicans agree to fund Democratic spending programs and provide a more longterm solution to the transportation budget. Meanwhile, Republicans continue to move the bill forward, driving the issue forward without resolution.
- The Export-Import Bank Charter -- The charter is set to expire at the end of the month, bringing another deadline close at hand in the hyper-partisan environment.
- Federal Transportation Funding -- On July 31, the budget for all highway construction will run out and construction will shut down. It may not be the sexiest political issue out there, but the desperate need for improvements in our nation's infrastructure has been a topic for some time. Just ask John Oliver.
- Spending Bills -- We are back to this again. Sen. Mitch McConnell set out to make the Senate function normally by passing spending bills on schedule, rather than continue the never-ending fiscal cliffs. But Sen. Harry Reid's intention to block GOP spending bills may set the Senate on a collision course, mirroring the battles of 2013.
Know What Your Asking For
Whether your senator is a Republican or a Democrat, they are complicit in the sub-par standards for governance and leadership that we are continually witness to. Because of this, what you say when you call the offices will be relatively similar, whether you are speaking to a Republican or Democrat. Below is a template to help get you started.
"Hello, my name is ______________, and I am a voter from __________________. I am calling to express my extreme disappointment in Senator _______ for failing to show leadership in the upcoming partisan battles in the Senate. It is reckless and irresponsible to continually drive toward deadlines without any mature attempt at seeking compromise, and I feel that the voters of our state deserve better from you.
This isn't some partisan issue you can blame on the other side. I am calling to ask Senator __________ to step up and show some leadership on this, and remind them that they have a responsibility as a leader, and to the voters, to set an example and show that the Senate can work. If the Senate continues this cycle of playing politics with a complete disregard for national welfare, everyone is complicit.
I think the voters of our state, and nationwide, deserve better than this."
If you speak to anyone it will be to someone in the office, or you will be transferred to constituent services. You might not speak to the Senator themselves, but the person you speak to has a voice too. Make your point passionately, call sufficiently, and your voice will be heard.
Know Who You Are Talking To
They don't make it especially easy for you to contact your representative, but don't worry, we will. Below is a table with the D.C. office number of every current Senator. You can follow this link to look up their number on the Senate Directory where you can also find ways to email the offices. Or you can use this inexplicably complex PDF provided by the Senate.
Does this matter to you? Do you believe government should work? Are you frustrated with the sub-par leadership continually on display? Make your voice heard, not just online through likes and comments, which never reach the people who need to hear it. Make your voice heard to the people in power, because they are paid to listen to you, and if they don't, they are bad at their job.
Editor’s note: This article, written by Andy Smith, originally published on the Centrist Project’s blog on June 12, 2015, and has been edited for publication on IVN. You can learn more about the Centrist Project on its website or follow the organization on Twitter and Facebook.