Legislators talk need for bipartisanship
Two lawmakers—U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, and State Rep. Christine Drazan, R-Canby—offered a legislative recap to business leaders in Canby at a lunch on Tuesday, Sept. 3. Despite any differences of opinion, both agreed on one thing: cooperation among the two major parties is a must.
Schrader has made himself somewhat known for his bipartisan work. He is a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group in the U.S. House made up of half Democrats and half Republicans, which nolabels.org describes as a "bloc committed to getting to a 'yes' on key issues."
In his summation of the legislative session at the federal level, Schrader noted that Democrats took control of the House in the last election, while Republicans maintained control of the Senate; but still he described a session in which everyone worked in harmony.
"So we've got a divided government, which makes it a little more difficult, perhaps, to get things done," Schrader said. "At least you would think so, but I'm here to tell you that the rank and file members really work very well together."
He said on the Energy and Commerce Committee, they are "putting out one bipartisan bill after another."
But in Oregon, where there is a Democrat governor and where Democrats have supermajorities in the House and the Senate, Drazan described a different scene—one that she said lacked balance.
"I appreciated hearing Congressman Schrader's perspective on congress, and I would like to say that that was my experience in Oregon, that there was this moment where everybody wanted to build relationships and solve problems," Drazan said. "For whatever reason, Oregon is a little bit of an outlier right now in that regard."
Instead, the Republican representative recounted how the other party took "the Democrat majority for a spin."
As an example, Drazan used the cap-and-trade bill, a controversial environmental policy that passed in the House but ultimately failed in the Senate. She said there were 102 amendments to that bill, zero of which were adopted with any Republican input.
"They were unwilling to adopt a single Republican amendment to the cap-and-trade bill," Drazan said. "That was my experience as a freshman legislature in Salem."
Drazan backed up and noted that the members of the Democrat party did not act in a mean-spirited way and she said they all get along privately.
"These are nice people who I enjoy personally," Drazan said. "But what we have right now are nice people who have, in fact, unfettered power."
In spite of their opposite experiences in the latest legislative sessions, Schrader and Drazan offered similar advice to Oregon voters: get involved.
Schrader said that the diversity of our country is a strength, not a weakness, and he encouraged voters to sit down and communicate with one another. As Schrader is an official problem solver, citizens too can become problem solvers, in a sense, by getting involved with No Labels, the group behind the Problem Solvers Caucus. For information about how to get involved, visit nolabels.org.
Drazan offered more specific actions constituents can and ought to take.
"I'm telling you, people from the supermajority side of the aisle right now, even though those Democrats represent all kinds of different areas of our state at this moment, they are all voting like they are all from Northwest Portland," Drazan said. "They are voting lockstep with the Speaker of the House on every single one of these issues. Citizens showing up inside the (Capitol) building holds all of us accountable. It holds me accountable to you. It holds them accountable to their citizens.
"So showing up is a big deal," she continued. "Show up, write, call, participate on social media. Say what you need to say....What we need right now is balance. What we need is a little bit of accountability. And showing up in any way you can—even if it's just a quick note, even if it's an email, even if it's a social media message, any of that—I promise you, makes a difference."
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