Problem solving should be focus


May 20, 2020

Going quietly amid the noise of Congressional grandstanding, shouting pundits and a bombastic president, a bipartisan group of 50 members of the U.S. House of Representatives has been preparing the way for politics post-Trump.

They call themselves the Problem Solvers Caucus, and they have been preparing the way for more bipartisan cooperation since 2017.

There are 25 Democrats, including New Mexico Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, and 25 Republicans in this caucus.

They get little notice because they work with each other instead of shouting insults and engineering blustery power plays to get media attention.

Lately, they, like the rest of us, are focused on COVID-19.

The caucus was apparently instrumental in crafting the current CARES Act, which is helping American people, businesses and governments cope with the COVID-19 crisis.

I don’t think they have much involvement with the $3 trillion round of COVID-19 assistance that the House passed last week on a party-line vote.

Senate Republican majority leaders have declared this bill dead on arrival since it seems to be larded with Democratic wishes that Republicans have always rejected.

Many suspect it is a Democratic campaign ploy.

It probably is. The silly season of campaigning is upon us even if it slows our COVID-19 response.

Maybe Congress can bring this dying patient to the Problem Solvers Caucus for some CPR (Compromise, Principle and Reality-check) treatment and come up with a next round of COVID-19 recovery stimuli that we can all live with before we have to find out whether COVID-19 or economic standstill will be deadlier.

The Problem Solvers Caucus has drawn up some useful, bipartisan checklists of what to do at each stage of COVID-19 recovery.

For now, the caucus calls for adopting “best practices” to “best extinguish any viral hotspots,” mass testing with quick results and a contact-tracing database, and procedures that recognize the difference in caseload between, say, densely populated New York-New Jersey and sparsely populated eastern New Mexico.

In the early stages of re-opening, the caucus recommends keeping healthcare systems on guard and well prepared, strict standards for workplaces that demand close quarters, and a system for sharing best practices, among other things.

In later stages, the caucus recommends big investments in infrastructure and continued stimulus assistance to assure full recovery.

Aside from COVID-19, the Problem Solvers Caucus has been involved in proposing rule changes for the House that include “voting options, floor debate, and committee procedures” that allow House members to participate from other locations besides the House Chamber.

They have also explored ideas to enhance rural healthcare, and to revamp war powers responsibilities.

The spread of Problem Solvers across the Capitol might have to wait until the Senate Republicans are relieved of Trump’s thuggish enforcement of absolute loyalty.

They need reminders of Trump’s minority of the popular vote in 2016, the reversals of 2018 and the advisability of working across the aisle.

A universal focus on problem solving in Congress would be a welcome change.

Steve Hansen writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:

[email protected]


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