Washington is about 3 hours from Denver by air, but by simple common sense, it seems to be much further away. The debacle that played out in DC in September highlights the extent to which our country’s leaders have divorced themselves from the kind of collaborative leadership that would typically prevail in places like Colorado and await our citizens.
The opportunity to do something the American people had long been required to do – to repair our dilapidated road and bridge infrastructure – has taken a backseat to petty youth squabbles within the party. The question now is whether the stalemate that has gripped the nation’s capital will spread to the rest of the country, or whether we can prevail over our seven elected representatives, from Diana DeGette of the 1st District to Ed Perlmutter of the 7th District, to restore Los Colorado values of working together, despite our differences, in Congress.
The coverage of the legislative debate in Washington has likely confused many ordinary voters, if only because so many moving pieces are at stake. But the narrative at its core is pretty simple. There are two great laws that bounce off Capitol Hill. One, the nation’s largest infrastructure investment in generations, was approved by the Senate in a bipartisan vote in August after being negotiated by a number of senators from both parties, including Sen. John Hickenlooper. The second is an even bigger “reconciliation” bill that includes a lot of social and climate spending, and is supported exclusively by some, but not all, Democrats.
Now here’s what happened: Those on the far left decided to use the widely supported bipartisan infrastructure bill as leverage to get their one-party reconciliation bill through Congress. In essence, they argued that even though they supported the infrastructure bill in principle, they would kill him if people who did not support the reconciliation bill refused to agree to their demands. It was the political equivalent of saying you’ll take the ball and go home unless the other team promises to let you win.
While that’s totally at odds with how most Coloradans believe the legislative process should work, it is now part of the course in Washington.
We don’t know exactly how this dispute will be resolved in the end, the backstage negotiation continues. But we do know this: While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised House Democrats of the “Unyielding Nine” who were defending the Senate-approved infrastructure bill a vote for the purpose of September, she did not keep her word in an effort to placate those on the left who were demanding immediate approval of the reconciliation bill. That’s the general problem with Washington in a nutshell: Ideas that both sides support are perpetually used as leverage by one side to force the other to accept something they openly oppose.
Fortunately, that is not the way Governor Jared Polis and his predecessors have ruled Colorado. When he can, the governor reaches out to state Republicans and does not allow his own party’s agenda to get in the way of bipartisan progress. The question is whether the federal officials we sent to Washington apply the same approach.
This is the time for the Colorado Congressional delegation to rise up and lead in Washington. The Unbreakable Nine rose in the summer to demand action on the infrastructure package, but very few of their colleagues supported them. Now, as progressives negotiate behind closed doors the details of what could become the largest reconciliation package in history, Pelosi can ask members to vote without a single hearing or examination of the bill. If they embodied the Colorado government approach, they would demand transparency. And they would put legislative priorities that win the support of both parties before those that one party wants to crush the other.
In representative government, ordinary citizens are often at a perpetual disadvantage because they do not know the ins and outs of the legislative process. They depend on their elected representatives to carry a torch for their interests. But even if Coloradans don’t know exactly what is happening along the long corridors of power in Washington, they can surely realize that what is happening behind closed doors is at odds with what ordinary people want from. their leaders. The nation faces real challenges, but if we work together, real solutions are at hand. If the Colorado Congressional delegation is to represent the interests of our state as they should, they must be at the forefront of efforts to find bipartisan solutions. Anything less is unacceptable.
L. Roger Hutson is President and CEO of HRM Resources III.