7 bipartisan priorities for the new Congress

Photo: President Trump signs opioid treatment bill. Evan Vucci/AP.

We have a divided government. We’re going to disagree. But it’s time to get some stuff done.

(Last political post for a little while, but hey, we just had an election that mattered.)

Americans wake up this morning with Democrats controlling the House and Republicans extending their majority in the Senate. Donald Trump is still President, last I checked.

The level of partisan vitriol is going to be off the charts, and the House will conduct endless investigations of Trump Administration wrongdoing.

But could we, just for a moment, try to get a few things done that, theoretically, we ought to all agree on?

You can do this. Legislators from both parties just passed a bill on opioid treatment bill and Trump signed it. There’s plenty more to do.

It’s time for Trump, the purported dealmaker, to make some deals. And the vaunted competitive forces of American markets can help.

Here are some suggestions:

1 Fix the Affordable Care Act

Repealing (and replacing) the Affordable Care Act is no longer on the table — the House will reject any repeal. But we still need health care.

Both parties have said they want to preserve protections for people with pre-existing conditions. So let’s do that. Any new law will have to prohibit payments for insurance that fails to protect such people.

Republicans believe competition is the key to health care success. But competition depends on people knowing the price of what they buy. Improve pricing transparency. Boost payments for prevention. Embrace innovation at the state level.

Fix this. Our country depends on it.

2 Fund the IRS

Did you know it is possible to reduce the deficit and increase tax receipts without a tax increase?

Every dollar invested in improved IRS enforcement yields $4 in tax receipts. Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin favors the increase. So let’s do it.

Even if you’re in favor of lower taxes, you shouldn’t be in favor of tax cheats.

3 Build the infrastructure

I travel.

That means I know that our roads suck, our bridges are dissolving, our big airports are awful, and our trains are slow.

It’s not like that in China or Japan or Europe. They know how to build stuff so their economies can work. Get on a train in China and then see if you can tell me how we’re the greatest country in the world.

Amazon is opening a big HQ in the Washington area. Hey, Mr. Bezos, how about lobbying the government to fix the roads that deliver all of Amazon’s stuff?

The deficit is bad enough. This has to be funded. Increase the gas tax. Yes, increase the gas tax. If we drive, we should pay. And the higher gas prices are, the more electric cars will be out there — and the more fuel economy will matter. That’s harnessing market forces, rather than government regulations.

4 Improve election security

I’d like to believe that our elections are fair. But to be fair, they have to work.

That means people in places like Georgia shouldn’t be waiting in line because the machines have no power cords.

It also means defending our elections from hacking by foreign powers.

Election security is a cheap investment compared to the expensive things in government. Without it, though, people lose faith in elections. And then our democracy is gone. That will be expensive.

5 Regulate social networks

How have Facebook and Twitter done at policing fake foreign actors peddling election influence on their platforms?


Tax them $1 for every false account posting fake stuff about elections. Pay for it by providing a bounty for people and companies that find the frauds. This will ramp up a big industry that hunts fake accounts, even as it makes social networks take fraudulent influence a lot more seriously.

6 Create penalties for data breaches

There is a profit in bad actors getting into systems to steal your data. In places like Equifax, you don’t even consent to the storage of that data.

Assess penalties of $1 per account stolen for data breaches. Use the funds to police data theft.

Only then will you see companies making the necessary investments to protect our data.

7 Send judges to meet the migrant caravan

So, depending on which news you read, the migrant caravan is a either a huge threat to our national security, filled with gang members and terrorists, or it’s a bunch of desperate refugees fleeing poor conditions in Central America.

But we all agree that judges will have to either grant or deny asylum to these people, based on their situations.

President Trump: rent space in Mexico. Set up immigration courts. Send judges, not soldiers. And process as many people as you can, as quickly as you can.

If they deserve asylum, let them in. If not, deny them.

If they’ve been denied, then when they show up at the border things are quick and easy: no entry. If they didn’t take the chance to get a hearing in Mexico, they don’t get to come in.

No soldiers. No guns. No separated families and kids in cages.

Do you really want to solve this problem, or just whip up emotion? The election is over. Now you can actually fix it.

Division is a failed strategy

Division, hatred, and enmity fail. The results in the house show that Trump would likely not get reelected with the same red meat antagonism that he used in the midterms. And he now says he regrets the angry tone he has used for the last two years.

Mr. President, it’s time to stop shouting and lead.

Whatever divisive and antagonistic things you thought you could do, Democrats will now block. Birthright citizenship? Army troops at the border? You’ll be in court for the rest of your term.

Or you could show America you actually want to get things done.

The list is right here. We’re waiting.

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  1. Partisan writers will often write, “This shouldn’t be seen as a partisan issue.” So when I read your headline (7 bipartisan priorities for the new Congress), I was skeptical. But by Josh, you were true to your word. Both parties have expressed their support for all your suggestions…except suggestion 4, Improve Election Security. Only one party wants to make voting more secure against the likeliest threats: Foreign governments. You also must know, Josh, that your example– missing power cords–has nothing to do with security. What I think you’re hinting at is “Make sure all eligible voters get to vote and have their vote counted.” But as you well know, the Republican Party has been doing everything in its power to suppress the the votes of people of color.

  2. Nothing will get done. You’ll get more comments here blaming republicans, making accusations like they’re trying to “suppress the votes of people of color.” It’s not true. That’s the narrative that that MSNBC and CNN want you to be believe, which is every bit as biased as what Fox News spews. Confirmation bias is a powerful drug. But that’s not my real point – which is worth repeating – NOTHING will get done.

    Listening to the likes of Nancy Pelosi preach about bipartisanship as she did last night, is every bit as ridiculous as the thought of Trump preaching about supporting the #MeToo movement. It’s all BS. The cold hard facts are: Both parties are dysfunctional; Both parties have corrupt participants; Pragmatic centrists are left without a voice while the left and right play their ridiculous partisan games for the sole purpose of making sure that their opponents look bad. It’s disgusting. It’s embarrassing. It’s like watching kids fighting on an elementary school playground. My one hope is that enough people on both “sides” agree with that sentiment, and vote for some genuine change in 2020, instead of putting more political extremes in Washington. We need term limits. We need a viable 3rd party. We need more independent minded people in Washington who care more about this country than their own political careers.

      1. Paul, out of respect to Josh, and you (especially since I don’t know you) I’ll refrain from getting into an unwinnable argument over what constitutes voter suppression and what doesn’t. Based on this limited exchange, it’s already clear that we likely disagree on some issues. I have no interest in either one of us trying to change the views of the other via text-based discourse.

  3. great suggestions. Perhaps something might happen. I think that there will be action on infrastructure and immigration. On immigration, I think the Democrats will cut a deal, DACA reform, some modification to immigration including ending visa lottery, and partial funding of the wall. other than that I don’t see too much happening until 2021 when we will have pent up demand for something to be done and a new President and congress to do it.

  4. We can and should be optimistic, Josh. Regarding infrastructure support, don’t drivers of electric vehicles use roads, bridges, rails and airports? We need to broaden the tax base for infrastructure support rather than limit it to drivers of gas powered vehicles. That’s my two quarters (allowing for inflation).

  5. Your #7 Send judges to meet the migrant caravan is a wonderful sentiment.

    Unfortunately, the arrival into Mexico has illustrated, they’re not going to stand in line to be processed.

    Unfortunately, their arrival has been violent with guns, firebombs and about anything they can use as a weapon. Additionally they’ve forced through barriers and fencing to flood into the country.

    I’m afraid “Judges” may be a bit at a loss to successfully deal with the situation, without a military accompaniment.