Nevada Newsmakers

News - September 29, 2022 - by Ray Hagar

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Democrats can crow in political ads about the successful legislation passed by Congress recently.

Yet none of that -- including the important CHIPS and Science Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act -- could not have been done without bipartisan help from Republicans, Nevada's 3rd U.S. District Rep. Susie Lee said Thursday on Nevada Newsmakers.

"We talk a lot about what Congress doesn't do," Lee told host Sam Shad. "But let's remember what we have done in a bipartisan manner: The infrastructure bill, the CHIPS and Science Act. We got some votes on the Safer Communities Act.

"Finally, gun safety legislation in this country and then our PACT Act, which will invest in veterans benefits and those exposed to burn pits."

At the center of the deal-making that led to the successful bipartisan legislation is the U.S. House Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 58 evenly-divided Republican and Democratic lawmakers, seeking solutions to the nation's problems, Lee said.

Besides Lee, Nevada's 4th U.S. House District Rep. Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, and 2nd U.S. House District Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, are listed as members.

"There has been progress made in a bipartisan manner and the Problem Solvers Caucus has led the way," Lee said.

Yet the Problem Solvers Caucus is in trouble, Lee added.

Six Republican members of the Caucus will retire at the end of the 117th Congress or lost recent primary elections. Five more Democrats will also be gone, for the same reasons, including losing primaries in redrawn districts.

Yet the loss of the Republicans will be a bigger factor since their crossover support was so necessary for legislation to pass in 2022.

Lee points to a key reason why they won't be around in 2023.

"All six of the (GOP) members who retired or lost had voted for impeachment," Lee said. "And I think it's a really scary statement about the state of affairs with the Republican Party where these people stood up and made a stand and stepped aside either because of the threats of violence that they and their families experienced, or decided that they were going to retire."

The rules to replenish the Problem Solvers membership may cause a problem, since a Republican and Democrat must join together, Lee said.

"I'm hoping that we can find more moderate members of the Republican Caucus to join," Lee said. "I know there's plenty of Democrats who will join as well. And listen, Problem Solvers started with, you know, 12 people, and grew to 58. So it's a setback for sure. But the mission still remains strong."

Trouble for future bipartisanship in Congress is underscored by the Cook Political Report. It states that half of the 50 most bipartisan U.S. House members -- as ranked by the Lugar Center-McCourt School Bipartisan Index -- are either retiring, lost primaries, or are in competitive districts and at-risk of losing re-election.

"We're still going to be committed (to bipartisanship) because ultimately this country runs better when we can work together across the aisle," Lee said.

The current political climate, however, may work against that because many incumbents face challenges from the far-right or far-left, Michael Thorning, director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Structural Democracy Project, told Bloomberg Government reporter Emily Wilkins.

“It’s harder to work across the aisle if you’re worried about being accused in your primary about not being a loyal enough party member,” Thorning told Wilkins.

The fracturing of bipartisanship and the Problem Solvers Caucus is ultimately bad for citizens, Lee said.

"The whole purpose of the Problem Solvers Caucus is for us to reach across the aisle in moderation and to find areas where we can agree on and start our negotiations from those areas," Lee said.

"Too often in Washington, you stand at either side of the room and you say, 'This is the line I'm not going to cross.' Well, no one crosses the line and nothing gets done," Lee said.

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