bipartisanship

The Republican House Wreckers Trying to Veto Democracy

Image via JP Keenan / Mc LOVIN / Shutterstock

In case you missed it, a strong and militant group of Republican members of Congress have pushed out their caucus leaders, paralyzed the House of Representatives, and can’t seem to find anyone who is as right-wing as they are to be the next Speaker.

These guys — and they are almost all guys; among 36 documented members, only one is a woman — call themselves the Freedom Caucus. And with the exception of one Latino from Utah, the members of this invitation-only group are all white.

The ideology of the Freedom Caucus is far to the right and they want procedural commitments from any new Speaker that would allow them to effectively prevent any compromises with Democrats, and allow them to shut down the government when their extreme demands are not met.

Want To Win The War On Poverty? For The Sake Of The Most Vulnerable, Let's Work Together

The only way to win the War on Poverty is for liberals and conservatives to make peace -- for the sake of the poor. That would be the best way to mark the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, declared by President Lyndon Johnson in his January 1964 State of the Union address. Making peace means replacing ideologies with solutions that actually solve the problems of poverty. With both Republicans and Democrats speaking out on poverty this week, and the recession slowly receding this should be an opportunity to find the focus, commitment, and strategies that could effectively reduce and ultimately eliminate the shameful facts of poverty in the world's richest nation.

Nothing Happens in Washington — Except For This

U.S. Capitol Building, Gary Blakeley / Shutterstock.com
U.S. Capitol Building, Gary Blakeley / Shutterstock.com

What I have heard after visiting 18 cities in six weeks is that people around the country believe that nothing can happen in Washington, D.C. They are basically right. So I am very grateful today to report the one exception.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a new comprehensive immigration reform bill with a bipartisan vote. Did you hear that: “bipartisan.” Amid heartbreaking news of the destruction, grief, and heroism we have seen in Moore, Okla., from one of the worst tornados in American history, millions of Americans found a reason to be hopeful.

This historic immigration bill now goes to the full Senate, where it has a real chance of passing and changing the lives of 11 million aspiring Americans. These are the “strangers” talked about throughout the Bible, and about whom Jesus said, in Matthew 25: how we treat them is how we treat him. That realization has caused a literal biblical conversion in the evangelical Christian community, which with the help of law enforcement officials and business leaders has done the impossible — changed Washington, D.C.

Self-interests, special interests, and even conflicting principles all put this life-changing proposal in grave danger. But in a town defined by gridlock, a group of eight senators crafted a bipartisan proposal that passed with only minor change. The bill reflects agreements reached by the AFL-CIO and Chamber of Commerce; imagine that. It isn’t perfect and no single legislator got everything she or he wanted, but the key elements that many of us have been fighting for are intact. That really is a triumph of the common good.

Now, I am asking you to write your senators and ask them to support this bill on the Senate floor.

How to Change Politics

THIS SUMMER, in a historic development, nearly 150 evangelical leaders signed an “Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform.” Signers came from across the spectrum of evangelicalism, from leading Latino evangelical organizations to pastors Max Lucado, Bill Hybels, Joel Hunter, and Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family.

No, that isn’t a typo. Sojourners stood side by side with Focus on the Family to draw attention to the plight of millions who have been caught up in a broken system. It was exciting to see a unity across the traditional political spectrum that rarely happens in Washington.

Make no mistake: There are still big gaps in theology and politics among those in the group. But rather than politics, we focused on the things we agreed were fundamental moral issues and biblical imperatives. Instead of ideology, we came together because of morality and common sense.

Big things don’t change in Washington first; they change in the nation’s capital last. You’d think that with all the lobbyists on K Street and the billions of dollars being spent, Washington must be the country’s most important place. But this is the place where things don’t change, where politics maintains the status quo and the special interests maintain their own interests. Both Republicans and Democrats are more concerned with their political bases and getting re-elected than with the people and families whose lives are being crushed.

Things change when hearts and minds across the country change. Things change when people’s understandings change, when families rethink their values, when congregations examine their faith, when communities get mobilized, and when nations are moved by moral imperatives. Things change when people believe that more than politics is at stake, that human lives, human dignity, and even faith are at stake. And when moral values change, culture changes—and then change comes to Washington.

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A 'Buy-Partisan' Problem

Money, Ryabitskaya Elena / Shutterstock.com

IN OUR DEMOCRACY, the first Tuesday in November is supposed to be an election. Unfortunately, it is turning into an auction, with government for sale to the highest bidders. Powerful interest groups buy clout with big campaign contributions.

Recently, the billionaire owner of the Minnesota Vikings persuaded the Minnesota legislature to build a new stadium with public funds. It was an enormous gift: It works out to a $72 taxpayer subsidy for every ticket, to every game, for the next 30 years!

This huge subsidy passed with votes from legislators of both parties, despite strong public opposition. Along with a multimillion lobbying campaign over the past decade, the Vikings owner, Zygi Wilf, with his family and lobbyists, contributed thousands of dollars to the Republican legislative caucuses and the Republican gubernatorial and legislative candidates.

They also contributed thousands of dollars to the Democratic legislative caucuses and the Democratic gubernatorial and legislative candidates. Why would they give to both parties and even to candidates running against each other? They say it is because their interests are bipartisan. Perhaps this might be more appropriately spelled “buy-partisan,” since they were trying to buy favor with both parties.

Did those contributions make a difference? Imagine what would happen if Wilf tried the same strategy to get his way at an NFL game and made $1,000 or $1,500 “contributions” to each of the referees before the next Vikings-Packers game. The NFL would kick Wilf and his team off the field and fire the officials without waiting for proof that the money affected the officiating. The conflict of interest is obvious.

Yet in politics, Wilf’s conflict of interest didn’t raise any eyebrows. Insiders are so accustomed to the practice that it doesn’t even cross their minds that there might be a problem.

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