By Andrew Bursky
Last week was a remarkable week in Washington.
While the media remains intensely focused on the tweets, changing faces and sheer drama emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., a more consequential and encouraging statement emerged from the Problem Solvers Caucus, co-chaired by New York’s own Rep. Tom Reed. In a remarkable act of courage, statesmanship and just plain old common sense, this caucus, composed about equally of Republicans and Democrats, issued a health care fix that is at once practical, actionable and bipartisan.
The fact that Reed and his Democratic co-chairman, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, were able to generate this plan at the same time health care reform was given up for dead by the Senate is nothing short of miraculous.
The document issued by the Problem Solvers Caucus is commendable not only in its brevity but also its practicality. The caucus’ solution is focused on stabilizing health care markets, which are about to go haywire if CSR (cost sharing reduction) payments are defunded, as President Trump has threatened. This, like every piece of bipartisan legislation ultimately enacted by Congress, is imperfect. Already, interests on the left and right are attacking specific elements of the proposal.
But in the opinion of more rational commentators, the proposal is thoughtful, balanced and, importantly, it can serve as a framework for a bill that can be implemented, given the bipartisan support of the Problem Solver Caucus’ 43 members.
Further, detractors on both sides of the aisle miss the point.
Here at last is a genuine effort by thoughtful members of Congress to take on a big, complex and ideologically fraught issue and find a bipartisan solution – an issue that has seen no progress by House and Senate leadership.
This display of legislative aptitude, reminiscent of the best years of our Congress when ideologically distant leaders like Bob Dole and Tip O’Neill regularly found pathways for compromise and progress, is a breath of fresh air. The caucus’ proposal may not ultimately lead to a health care bill, but we hope it is representative of a new bipartisan sensibility that can reshape Congress.
The facts are that most of us want to see bipartisan-enabled progress return to Congress (a recent poll conducted by Hudson Pacific Research indicated that 73 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of Democrats want bipartisan approaches to reform).
So herein lies the opportunity: The best way to ensure that Congress extricates itself from ideologically polarized gridlock is to return to Congress those elected officials who have demonstrated the capacity to work across the aisle to address the nation’s problems.
Reed should be commended for leading this renewal, and New York Republicans and Democrats would do well to see this capable legislator returned to Congress in 2018.
Andrew Bursky is chairman of Atlas Holdings, a diversified manufacturing business, and co-founder of No Labels, a bipartisan effort to encourage congressional action on key issues facing the nation.