Washington is about 3 hours from Denver by plane, but just common sense it seems to be much further. The debacle exposed in Washington in September shows how far our nation’s leaders have strayed from the kind of collaborative leadership that would typically prevail in places like Colorado and our citizens expect.
The opportunity to do something long overdue for the American people – fix our dilapidated infrastructure of bridges and roads – has faded into the background of petty youthful feuds within the party. The question now is whether the impasse that has settled in the national capital will spread to the rest of the country, or can we prevail over our seven elected officials, from Diana DeGette of the 1st arrondissement to Ed Perlmutter of the 7th, to restore Coloradian values to work 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 parts are involved. But the underlying narrative is fairly straightforward. There are two big bills bouncing around Capitol Hill. One, the country’s biggest infrastructure investment in generations, was passed by the Senate in a bipartisan vote in August after being negotiated by a range of senators from both parties, including Senator John Hickenlooper . The second is an even larger “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. Basically, they argued that even though they supported the infrastructure bill in principle, they would kill it if the people who did not support the reconciliation bill refused to comply with their demands. It was the political equivalent of saying you’re going to take your ball and come home unless the other team promises to let you win.
While this is totally at odds with how most Coloradians probably think the legislative process should work, it is now normal in Washington.
We’re not sure exactly how this dispute will end up settling – behind-the-scenes negotiations are continuing. But we know this: While President Nancy Pelosi promised House Democrats the “unbreakable nine” who defend the Senate infrastructure bill a vote by the end of September, she backed down. word in order to appease those on the left demanding immediate adoption of the reconciliation bill. This is the generalized problem with Washington in a nutshell: the ideas that both sides support are perpetually used as leverage by one side to force the other to agree to something it categorically opposes.
Fortunately, this is not how Governor Jared Polis and his predecessors ruled Colorado. Whenever he can, the governor reaches out to Republicans across the state, and he doesn’t let his own party’s agenda stand in the way of bipartisan progress. The question is whether the federal officials we send to Washington apply the same approach.
Now is the time for the Colorado congressional delegation to rise and lead in Washington. The Unbreakable Nines stood up this summer to demand action on the infrastructure package, but too few of their colleagues backed them up. Now, as progressives negotiate the details of what could become the biggest reconciliation plan in history behind closed doors, Pelosi can ask members to vote without a single hearing or consideration of the bill. If they were to embody Colorado’s approach to governance, they would demand transparency. And they would put legislative priorities that elicit support from both sides ahead of those one side wants to push down the other’s throats.
In representative government, ordinary citizens are often disadvantaged in perpetuity because they do not know the ins and outs of the legislative process. They depend on their elected officials to carry the torch of their interests. But even though Coloradians don’t know exactly what is going on along Washington’s long corridors of power, they can surely say that what goes on behind closed doors is at odds with what ordinary people expect of their leaders. The nation faces real challenges, but if we work together, real solutions are within reach. If the Colorado congressional delegation is to represent the interests of our state as it should, it 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.