Gridlock has become synonymous with Congress. But despite the deep divisions among elements of the U.S. House and Senate, the first session of the 114th Congress (2015), to the surprise of many observers, got some good stuff done. Surely some big things were left undone, including the Republican Senate majority’s foolish obstructionism over President Barack Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Senate’s unprecedented stalling over important federal appointments. That nonsense aside, it is revealing to look at what has been accomplished. By the low-bar measure of the past few sessions, it is impressive.
n For the first time since 1998, a multiyear highway funding bill cleared Congress.
n No Child Left Behind was replaced by the Every Student Achieve Act, which repeals the Common Core mandate but not Common Core standards. States have more autonomy. It’s the first education reform since 2002
n Social Security disability reform shores up the disability insurance trust fund, thus ensuring benefits will be paid. It’s the first significant Social Security reform since 1983.
n The 1970s crude oil export ban was lifted.
n The National Defense Authorization Act raises pay to troops, funds improvements to the B-52 fleet and funds an Intelligence Targeting facility in Fargo.
n Both houses approved the Keystone XL pipeline, but the Senate could not override a presidential veto.
n A landmark bill to combat sex trafficking became law.
n The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act will help states and localities fun education and prevention programs and support law enforcement – an initiative that resonates in the region as communities confront a growing illegal drug threat.
There is more, but the above examples (with the exception of the pipeline) were passed with bipartisan majorities in Congress. Even as partisan lines harden during a presidential election year, there is common ground among senators and congressmen on important issues. It’s not enough, and bipartisanship today is no guarantee of bipartisanship tomorrow. But gridlock need not be the perennial modus operandi, and the major legislation that was passed proves it.