House majority Dems freeze out GOP members on bipartisan bills

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jserraglio
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House majority Dems freeze out GOP members on bipartisan bills

Post by jserraglio » Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:03 am

Politico

Republicans say Democrats are refusing to work with them on legislation in order to snub vulnerable members ahead of 2020.
During the last two sessions of Congress, Democrat Bobby Rush and Republican Richard Hudson introduced legislation together to improve workforce-training programs.
But this year, Rush altered the language to the bill and stripped out a previous key element: Hudson.
“He reintroduced it, and he’s added all this money to it, and didn’t consult me,” the North Carolina Republican said.
Hudson is among several frustrated Republicans who have lashed out at their Democratic colleagues in recent days, arguing that Democrats have shut them out of the legislative process by refusing to work cooperatively on bills — including some they once co-authored.
Republicans claim Democrats, at the direction of their leadership, are determined to deny GOP incumbents any big victories heading into 2020 on a host of issues — from prescription drugs to immigration reform — and are dropping the bipartisan approach they seemed to promise during the last election.
Democrats have one response: Welcome to the minority.
Emboldened by their largest freshman class since Watergate, Democrats say they have every right to draft their dream bills without consulting the minority party. And they point out that they were rarely extended the same courtesy when the GOP ruled the House.
“I don’t have thin skin about this, but when they were in charge, they had the rules,” said Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), who has spent 25 years in the House, mostly in the minority. “Now we’re in charge, and maybe some of them don’t understand that yet.”
Rush’s office also argues the 72-year-old Illinois lawmaker is entitled to tweak the workforce legislation as he sees fit.
“Now that Rep. Rush is chairman, he decided to beef up the legislation by adding funding to make it easier for candidates who are going through training to receive wages while they are doing so,” said Ryan Johnson, a Rush spokesman. “Chairman Rush continues to reach out to Republicans in hopes that they will finally agree to fund this jobs program.”
Hudson says that when he confronted Rush about the perceived snub, he was told “‘We didn’t mean to exclude you from the process. We’d love to work with you.’” But according to Hudson, “I’m still waiting.”
Aides to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer dismissed any notion that they’re intentionally stymieing GOP attempts at policymaking.
But so far in their new majority, Democrats have muscled ahead with an ambitious, mostly partisan agenda — as is typical in the House — including new gun control laws and a campaign finance overhaul.
Many Democrats also campaigned on issues where the two parties could find common ground, like infrastructure and drug pricing. Some House GOP lawmakers took that to mean Democrats would reach across the aisle in the new era of divided government — or else forfeit any chances of the bill making it to President Donald Trump’s desk.
Three months later, though, Republicans gripe they’ve been left out of areas that are ripe for compromise, a potentially ominous sign for bigger bipartisan priorities down the road.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), a centrist and former GOP chairman, said he has specifically reached out to top House Democrats like Hoyer about their party’s bill to protect so-called Dreamers.
“‘Don’t forget to include Republicans as a part of this,’” Upton said he told Hoyer. “But they haven’t yet. There are no co-sponsors. We’ve seen it coming, but there’s been no outreach.”
Florida GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said he, too, expected to hear from Democrats on Dreamers — one of his signature issues in recent years. Democrats unveiled their own plan last week to protect the young undocumented immigrants, with 214 co-sponsors, all Democrats.
“I feared that this was going to be Democratic leadership’s strategy — not trying to actually work in a way to put bills on the floor to become law, but on the contrary, doing it in a way that it won’t become law, just to score political points,” Diaz-Balart said.
Democrats say the GOP’s complaints show that they are struggling to adapt to the minority after eight years in charge, including two years controlling both chambers and the White House.
On Dreamers, Democratic aides say Republicans were the ones to ditch bipartisan talks last fall. No Republican currently in the House signed onto a similar Dreamer bill last year; it did have 10 Republican co-sponsors, but all were defeated or retired last November.
The lead author of the bill, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), added in a statement that she’s had “extensive and positive bipartisan meetings” about the bill before it was released.
Republicans are also fuming over Democrats’ decision to go it alone on bills to lower prescription drug costs — an area of earlier bipartisanship as well as a chief priority for Trump.
In the previous Congress, Republicans and Democrats negotiated several bipartisan pieces of legislation, including the so-called Creates Act, which would make it easier for cheaper generic drugs to come to market.
But one Republican lawmaker said he has repeatedly approached Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), who chairs the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health, about working together this year on the drug-pricing bills. The lawmaker, who requested anonymity to speak frankly, said discussions with Eshoo went nowhere.
Other Republicans on the same panel were caught off-guard when Democrats emailed the minority a package of already completed bills — including a revamped version of the Creates Act — and gave them one day to decide whether to co-sponsor it. Several GOP lawmakers ultimately did, though tensions spilled into public view during a hearing on the measures 10 days later.
“Bipartisanship is asking for my input, not just for my vote,” said Texas Rep. Michael Burgess, the top Republican on the health subcommittee. “Giving a member less than 24 hours to sign onto a piece of legislation they have never seen is discourteous, especially when we have said at each hearing thus far this Congress that we are willing to work in a bipartisan way.”
The office of Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, however, pointed out that several of the bills, including the new Creates Act, have garnered bipartisan support this year.
Democrats have notched several bipartisan wins in the new Congress, even on some of the left’s top priorities, like gun control. The party’s signature universal background check bill had five Republicans as original co-sponsors and eight voted for it on the floor. And at a recent news conference, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) stood side by side with Pelosi as she rolled out a bill to expand the nation’s landmark domestic violence bill, the Violence Against Women Act.
In her return to power, Pelosi and her top deputies have committed to putting the vast majority of their bills through a slog of markups — with ample time for amendments from both sides — before they headed to the floor. The speaker has also made clear Democrats will pursue their agenda without being constrained by the right.
“In the legislative process, you cannot confine yourself to what the other side might do on any given day. Otherwise, you might just as well just stay home,” she said at news conference in Missouri last week. “We’re not staying at home. We are there to make the fight in the House.”
Many senior Democrats say they do want GOP co-sponsors and have pushed back against claims that they’re pursuing a strict party-line agenda.
Doyle, who leads a subcommittee on communication and technology, said he was stunned when House Republicans accused him of sidelining them on net neutrality legislation after 24 years of working in a bipartisan fashion on a slew of issues.
The Pennsylvania Democrat said he’d worked hard to incorporate some GOP concerns into his net neutrality bill, though his effort was barely noticed by Republicans.
Three Republicans, Reps. Bob Latta of Ohio, Greg Walden of Oregon and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, laced into at Doyle at a tense hearing this month, and all released competing bills with no notice to Democrats.
“I said, ‘Great, I must have missed the phone call when you guys said you were going to drop this,’” Doyle quipped. “If someone came up to me and said, ‘Hey, I have a bill ... I probably would have said, ‘Instead of dropping the bill, why don’t you just come over and bring it to me?’”
“That, to me, isn’t the way you want to work with someone,” he added.
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