Cover Story – Jan 2019

January 19th, 2019

frank-caracturertc-logoBipartisanship Exists, But Can It Survive The Age of Ideology?
By Frank X. Mullen

In an era of hyper polarization and ideological gridlock, you might have missed the bipartisan report cards of the members of Nevada’s congressional delegation.

In the Senate, Dean Heller, who lost his seat to former Rep. Jacky Rosen in November, was among the most bipartisan members of the upper house, according to the Lugar Center, a nonprofit group aimed at advancing bipartisanship and backing positive political solutions. The Center’s Bipartisan Index for 2017, the latest available, also rated Rosen, who served one term in the House, as among the most bipartisan members in the lower chamber.

“The index is calculated on how many sponsorships and co-sponsorships take place across the aisle,” explains Jamie Spitz, assistant policy director for bipartisan governance at the Washington, D.C.-based Lugar Center. The organization was founded by retired Sen. Richard Lugar. “The scores are objectively calculated and the (sponsorship of bills) don’t include things like naming post offices… Dean Heller was one of the top scorers.”

Heller was rated fifth out of 100 senators and freshman Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto was rated 68th. Heller’s web site listed 18 bills that garnered co-sponsors from across the aisle, many dealing with veterans’ and Nevada-related issues. On the House side, the Lugar Center listed Rosen as the 47th (out of 435) most bipartisan representatives. Rep. Dina Titus was ranked 173rd, Mark Amodei came in at 199th. Ruben Kihuen, who did not run for re-election, was 252nd on the list of most bipartisan House members.

According to another report on bipartisanship – by the firm Quorum Analytics — 41 percent of the legislation Rosen co-sponsored was introduced by a Republican, making her the “fifth-most bipartisan freshman member” in the House. Rosen made bipartisanship a key promise of her campaign and touted her record in the 115th Congress. She points to her efforts involving health-care policy, veterans’ issues and her votes on taxes, where she crossed the aisle with three other Democrats and voted with GOP members to support provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. “You’ve got to work across party lines to do what’s right for Nevada,” she says in a campaign ad.

The Lugar Center tracks the sponsorship of bills, but other organizations keep tabs on lawmakers’ voting records, where partisanship rules. Heller, for example, voted with the Trump administration’s positions 94.4 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight.com’s vote tracker. Cortez Masto voted with the administration 32.9 percent of the time, according to the web site.

On the House side, Rosen voted with the administration 42.4 percent of the time, compared with Amodei, 98.9 percent; Kihuen, 20.9 percent; and Titus, 13.5 percent.

In an interview with the Nevada Current in November, Rosen says she will continue working on topics that were her focus in the House, including cyber-security, infrastructure, and career and technical education. She also served on a task force in the House that made recommendations for a bipartisan infrastructure package. In an interview with GrayDC, after the November election, Rosen said voters want lawmakers to “come to the table with common sense” and see areas of agreement without having to argue over the nuances of every issue. She says the new Democrat-controlled House will be sending to the Senate proposals that “hopefully we’ll find some consensus to work on.”

Other members of the Nevada delegation also see hope for some bipartisan movement in 2019 despite a year that is certain to hold multiple investigations of the administration on the House side and further revelations from the Mueller investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential race.

During her campaign, freshman Rep. Susie Lee noted she was running because she is tired of the gridlock and divisiveness in government. “I don’t think it is working for working families,” she told Nevada Public Radio. “I think the (Mueller) investigation should run its course but honestly, I want to get there and get to work for Nevada and working families.” She notes that infrastructure, skills training, and capital for small businesses are issues where both parties ought to find consensus.

Rep. Steven Horsford points to his sponsorship of a bipartisan immigration reform bill when he served in the lower house in 2012. That bill had bipartisan support but failed to reach the floor for a vote. He blames most of the current divisiveness on the administration, but argues that the two parties should be above attempts to divide people by race, gender or religion. “That’s not a partisan issue,” he told Nevada Public Radio during the campaign. “There are a lot of Republicans, there are a lot of nonpartisans that are frustrated by the chaos in Washington and they’re frustrated by how people are being treated.”

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