Signs of bipartisanship are slowly beginning to show on Capitol Hill, even as Congress moves into full campaign mode.
A collection of about 80 House Members, split almost evenly between the two parties, is preparing to send a letter this week calling on the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction to negotiate a grand bargain. Supporters of the effort, led by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), include dozens of lawmakers who have been meeting all year to discuss fiscal issues.
The group’s efforts come as a New York Times/CBS News poll places Congress’ approval rating at 9 percent and just weeks before the super committee is scheduled to put forward its recommendations to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion.
“They have to go big and everything has to be on the table,” Simpson said recently of the super committee. “I don’t think you can take anything off the table and get to where we need to be.”
Simpson and Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) are the bipartisan leaders behind a letter urging the super committee to negotiate a grand bargain similar to what Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and President Barack Obama discussed this summer before settling on a smaller deal to raise the debt limit. Simpson said the House letter follows up on a Senate version released last month, in which more than 30 bipartisan Members urged the panel to go beyond its mandate and shoot for a $4 trillion deal.
“We know that many in Washington and around the country do not believe we in the Congress and those within your committee can successfully meet this challenge. We believe that we can and we must,” the letter says.
Supporters of the letter represent a broad cross section of the House, including freshmen, conservatives and liberals. Rep. Jim Himes, a New Democrat Coalition member, said the eclectic mix proves “there’s a very substantial group that’s willing to be more public for a larger deal than just statements would suggest.”
Asked whether he thought a silent majority of lawmakers was forming in support of bipartisanship, the Connecticut Democrat said: “I absolutely do. Over the last six months, I have been at countless breakfast and dinners with no press and no cameras where conservative Republicans have said I know we need to address revenues, and liberal Democrats have said I know we need to address entitlements.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.