Turnover elections traditionally bring with them both new hope and great expectations. With their votes, the American people have asked for change in Washington, tired of the partisanship and paralysis of the past. When elections are about change, the electorate, not surprisingly, actually expects change to occur.
The American people expect action and results. According to a post-election USA Today poll, approximately half of respondents said they expected the president and the Congress would cooperate with each other in the coming year.
While it received little attention in the media coverage of the 2006 campaign, the Congressional Democrats put forward a specific policy agenda that begins to implement real change to address our security failures and alleviate the economic pressures on the middle class and least fortunate. The House Democrats’ 100-hour agenda provides the right start for the 110th Congress, and should pass with bipartisan support. Congress cannot credibly set out to address the nation’s problems until it fixes its own, and the ethics and pay-as-you-go reforms will go a long way to restoring faith in government. Among its other important agenda items: raising the minimum wage, giving government the tools it needs to lower prescription drug prices for our nation’s seniors, replacing tax breaks for polluting oil companies with clean energy technologies, lowering the cost of college, and promoting stem cell research. These are critically needed fixes that will go a long way to securing the trust of the American people in Congress’ ability to work for them and hopefully begin to build a better working relationship between Democrats, Republicans, and the president that can bring effective new policies to our governing.
This past election, Americans asked Washington to stop ignoring our country’s problems and get about the business of solving them. Progressives have an opportunity to show that their governing philosophy addresses real people’s concerns. The righted ship of Congress should leave Americans feeling that progressives have delivered change that clearly opens the doors of opportunity to a growing middle class, reawakens our conscience, and commits us to the common good, reforms government, and restores the image of the US as a nation of both strength and a force for progress.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund offers our recommendation for new ideas and policies that the 110th Congress should take on and enact before the August recess, after the first 100 hours. In the weeks and months after those first hours, Congress will have an opportunity to demonstrate progress on fixing the problems Americans face. Indeed, we argue that instead of following the traditional Congressional course of an initial burst of activity followed by weeks and months of less action, the Congressional leadership can show the American people it continues to work to meet their needs by continually passing legislation in the spring and summer.
While restoring order and accountability to the day-to-day business of the Congress is essential, a sense of urgency needs to become palpable in order to meet expectations set by the midterm elections. Internal and external deadlines with committees should be set on key deliverables. Doors should be opened to include the minority party in an unprecedented fashion. And recognizing the Senate may take longer to work its will than the House, the Senate leadership can continually promote the progressive agenda issues by pushing proposals onto the floor.
The proposals that follow are concrete policy changes that Congress could pass in those months to demonstrate that progress is at the core of a progressive philosophy. By continually moving new proposals through the legislative process, the Congress can also dominate news coverage and communicate its intention to hold equal sway with the president on the domestic and foreign policy agendas of the country.
These policies would address aspects of the most pressing of our nation’s problems—Iraq and national security, energy security, economic policy, health care, education, and the environment. We urge and underscore the need for dialogue across the aisle in addressing these issues, and especially in developing a plan for a swift and successful conclusion to the US presence in Iraq. The American people are looking for bipartisan agreement on that plan.
The opportunity voters have given progressives to lead cannot be overstated, just as the midterm election results cannot be over read. We have been given the chance to prove that our ideas and policies can help solve the nation’s problems, but we also shoulder the responsibility to repair the damage our union has sustained at the hands of radical conservative ideologies. It is an opportunity that should not be wasted.