Bipartisan negotiations continue to be ineffective

Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist

Although it’s well-known that the best way to get a bill passed is to secure bipartisan support, compromises between parties have been ineffective.

The government shut down on Jan. 19 because Congress could not decide on a spending bill, and even though the national government is currently controlled by a Republican majority, this shutdown had everything to do with unsuccessful bipartisanship.

Congress’s current definition of “compromise” is less about meeting in the middle and more about trading-off between parties. Instead of coming to a consensus and working together to address the needs of both parties, and the entirety of the American people, the government has adopted a quid pro quo methodology.

A prime example of this trade-off mentality comes from the present Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) debate. President Donald Trump readdressed the DACA discussion last week by proposing a path to citizenship for the program’s recipients, in what is no doubt an attempt to appease both parties while also asking for concessions from the Democrats.

The DACA program was created by President Barack Obama in 2012 to offer protection for people who were brought into the U.S. as children. While DACA comes with various benefits, and a person’s citizenship status can be renewed every two years, the program does not currently present a route to citizenship.

However, Trump did away with the program in September, which caused many members of Congress on the left side of the aisle to advocate for a “clean” Dream Act, which would lead DACA beneficiaries to citizenship.

This path to citizenship seems to be a satisfying compromise for Democrats, but many Republicans have stated they will be less likely to vote in favor of such a bill if they aren’t getting something in return, such as a border wall or more immigration officers. If no deal is struck between parties, these “Dreamers” will be susceptible to deportation and will be unable to renew their DACA status, which could begin in March of this year.

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, cooperative lawmaking has definitely been successful in the past, with policies such as the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and even the 2010 Tax Deal demonstrating effective bipartisanship among parties. Be that as it may, Congress’s views of compromise have shifted, and congressional mindsets are now more inclined toward their own agendas than the well-being of the American people.

While the existing trade-off ideology is one way of negotiating, it is in the best interest of the government, not in the best interest of the governed. Not to mention, switching from one party’s stance to the other’s on any number of issues is incredibly divisive and could certainly lead to issues equal to and surpassing the seriousness of the recent government shutdown.

In light of the closure, and in respect to the continuous DACA debate, it is more important than ever for Congress to re-evaluate what “compromise” really means. These lawmaking agreements are not meant to be hard-driven bargains or switching off on stances, but rather understanding what the American people are asking for and, in turn, working together to ensure that their ideals are being represented.

In the midst of these bipartisan “efforts,” there is a moderate group of senators known as the Common Sense Coalition that has been putting these practices in place. According to Business Insider, these lawmakers are a primary reason why the government shutdown came to a close, and their moderate ideologies and actual compromises should be mimicked by their radical left and right colleagues.

While there will definitely be some dispute in any government discussions, as is the nature of political parties, it is imperative that Congress’s mindset moving forward embodies working together toward a common goal – not working separately toward entirely different goals.

As far as DACA is concerned, Trump’s proposed plan to citizenship is certainly an act of compromise toward the Democrats, but demanding multiple concessions from the Democrats in return for this deal is not. Compromise means everyone wins, not “I win this one and you win the next one.”