Opinion & Analysis

I’ve mediated my share of disputes. Here’s how to end the shutdown
The issues here are not as complicated as people want to make them

Senate Democrats, carrying large photos of federal workers affected by the government shutdown, walk down the Capitol steps to call on the president to end the shutdown. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — Take it from a professional mediator: Both the president and Congress have engaged in bad bargaining practices. They have said and done things that create obstacles to reaching agreement on a Southern border “wall” and on ending the government shutdown. Of course, political considerations are diverting each side from making a reasonable compromise. But without compromise, each sides’ political standing will suffer.

What’s gone wrong, and how can the process of resolving such disputes be made to work? As a labor-management negotiator and mediator in hundreds of disputes, I have some ideas. Here are 7 basic tenets of bargaining that are essential to the process have been totally ignored and violated:

Under Trump, our public lands are spewing carbon dioxide
Parks and forests could help us tackle the climate crisis — but right now they’re making it worse

Our public lands are currently hurting efforts to reduce emissions and achieve a zero-carbon economy. That’s absolutely backwards and unnecessary, Grijalva and Lowenthal write. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Getty Images)

OPINION — The Trump administration tried to sneak two alarming climate change reports past the public last year just after Thanksgiving, apparently hoping everyone would be shopping or sleeping off a turkey hangover. The attempt backfired spectacularly.

One of the reports, the National Climate Assessment, gave a new sense of urgency to climate policy in a way unmatched by other recent scientific analyses. Its projections of huge impacts on people’s health, their homes, and the overall U.S. economy from runaway climate change have spurred fresh calls for action and sharpened House Democrats’ focus on climate policy in the next Congress.

Revenge is best served cold on State of the Union night
Nancy Pelosi’s gambit reminds Trump that norms-trampling can cut two ways

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has put the president on notice, Shapiro writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — At last, a welcome burst of creativity as the government shutdown slogs towards the end of its fourth week.

In tactical terms, it was devilishly clever for Nancy Pelosi to write Donald Trump to announce that the House Democrats, in effect, will be at home binge-watching two seasons of “Mrs. Maisel” on State of the Union night.

Very much up for grabs: this year’s profile in courage
Washington may not offer much in the way of inspiration, but look a little harder

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott occasionally calls out examples of racism in his own party, Curtis writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Identifying the politician offering that idealistic advice is not so hard — President John F. Kennedy at his Jan. 20, 1961, inauguration. But that’s not all the 35th president had to say about the promise and challenges of America.

Climate change? “The supreme reality of our time is the vulnerability of our planet.” Income inequality? “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

Capitol Ink | Special Relationship

Voters didn’t want a stalemate. But they expected one from Dems
There’s a big difference between what people hope the House will do and what they think it actually will

When it comes to political missteps, little compares to the Schumer-Pelosi “American Gothic” moment, Winston writes. It’s a far cry from what voters wanted — but not from what they expected.(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — The 116th Congress has arrived, and less than two weeks into the session, America has already tasted the fruits of its electoral labors last November. It’s been quite a debut for House Democrats.

The country has been treated to profanity-laced rants from new Democratic members as a breathless, media-driven cult of personality grows around the newly-elected freshman class. Voters, desperate for real-world solutions to cost-of-living issues, have seen the Democratic Caucus’ increasingly dominant left wing call for budget-busters from a “Green New Deal” to single-payer health care while studiously avoiding a solution to reopen government.

Democrats try to meet people where they are: mired in cynicism
Next to Trump’s unfulfilled, empty pledge to drain the swamp, HR 1 looks pretty savvy

Democrats are intent on sticking to their “For the People” message, even if they’re swimming upstream against the partial government shutdown. Above, from left, Rep. Colin Allred, Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, Caucus Vice Chair Katherine Clark, and Rep. Xochitl Torres-Small hold a press conference in the Capitol on Jan. 9. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

ANALYSIS — It’s tempting, and deliciously smug, to dismiss House Democrats’ everything-but-the-kitchen-sink campaign finance, lobbying, ethics and voting overhaul bill as an overtly partisan political messaging stunt that’s doomed in the Senate and too unpolished for enactment.

The measure is all of those. But ignoring this effort outright means waving off voters’ very real perception that their democracy has been sold out to the highest campaign donors.

Capitol Ink | Bear Hug

Time for Republicans senators to override the shutdown
A genuine national emergency — not the kind you have to declare — is taking root

Passengers wait in a TSA line on Jan. 9 at JFK airport in New York City. With TSA agents going unpaid during the partial government shutdown, many are forced to call in sick to work hourly jobs elsewhere to pay the bills. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

OPINION — It’s Day 25 of the longest government shutdown in American history and there’s only one end in sight.

It’s not a compromise between Democrats and President Donald Trump. White House aides say the president is “dug in” on his demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called the wall “immoral.” There is very little hope for a breakthrough between “dug in” and “immoral,” especially between two sides that both think they’ve got the moral high ground — and voters — on their side.

Government’s data policies enter the 21st century — finally
Recently passed reforms hold hope of more evidence-informed policies

Before he gave up his speaker gavel and retired from the House, Paul D. Ryan had a final hurrah in December when Congress passed a package of comprehensive data reforms that he and Washington Sen. Patty Murray had introduced a year earlier. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — It might be 2019, but our government’s data infrastructure is largely stuck in the 20th century.

That’s a big problem in the era of the information age. Failing to use data to improve government’s programs and services means taxpayers may not be getting what they pay for. It also means our public discourse suffers when figuring out what problems should be addressed and the best ways to do so.

Congress ignored its election duties for years. That ends now
With HR 1, House Dems have laid out a blueprint for voting reform

As House Democrats push voter registration reforms, there may be heartburn at the state level. But the conversation they’re starting is a crucial one, Weil writes. Above, Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries approaches a “For the People” podium. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — House Democrats have waited eight years to regain the speakership, and now that they hold the gavel, they will clearly seek to move on pent-up priorities. For their first act out of the gate, they rolled several into one.

The “For the People Act” — or H.R. 1 — runs just over 500 pages and includes proposals the Democrats have pursued during their time in the minority, such as ethics reforms, campaign finance changes, and a well-publicized section requiring presidential candidates to hand over their tax returns.

Capitol Ink | Character Witness

Youth, anger, impeachment and the 1970s
Strengths of freshman Democrats lie more in dramatizing ignored issues than fleshing out policy details

If Bernie Sanders could get through the entire 2016 primary season without coherently explaining how he would pay for “Medicare for all,” why is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expected to be an ace number cruncher, Shapiro writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — In the 1970s, as a 25-year-old history graduate student at the University of Michigan, I ran for Congress without family money or even owning a car. In my passion (the Vietnam War was raging) and in my belief that college students deserved representation in Washington, I had much in common with the history-making Democratic Class of 2018.

Unlike, say, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I lost the Democratic primary to the floor leader of the Michigan state House, although I did carry anti-war Ann Arbor by a 5-to-1 margin. (Many more details on request). But I came close enough to nurture a few fantasies about my arrival in Washington as the nation’s youngest congressman.

If Trump is looking for a national emergency, he should try these ones instead
Voter suppression, gun violence — those are worth fighting against

As the president fixates on the border, Democrats are trying to make headway on guns, Curtis writes. Above, Dominic Gregoire, 10, holds a picture of a shooting victim while attending an event at the Capitol last year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — Dueling teleprompter speeches and a high-drama walkout: This is what it looks like when our country’s leaders debate the best way to meet the challenges at the border and whether shutting down the government is the best way to settle it.

If no one budges this week — and the way talks have been going so far, optimism is not particularly warranted — the next step could be a national emergency, declared by the president. But first Donald Trump seems intent on diluting the word “emergency” to mean whatever he wants it to mean on a particular day or hour.

Capitol Ink | Government Shutdown Wall