Former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker (R), Tom Daschle (D), Bob Dole (R) and George Mitchell (D) started the Bipartisan Policy Center, a non-profit organization, in 2007. It is the only Washington-based think tank that “actively promotes bipartisanship.” In 2013 the BPC began to investigate the “causes and consequences of America’s partisan political divide and to advocate for specific reforms that will improve the political process and that will work in a polarized atmosphere.”
They recently released their finding in “Governing in a Polarized America: A Bipartisan Blueprint to Strengthening our Democracy.” (You can download the full report or various summaries.) The BPC organized their research into three broad areas:
- Electoral System Reform
- Congressional Reform
- A More Engaged Citizenry
The BPC has realize are confused by the electoral system. They suggest having each state that has primaries hold them on a common Primary Election Day. Their reasoning is that a common congressional primary day will increase media attention and awareness potentially leading to more participation.
They also recognize that the number of competitive congressional races have decreased decade by decade and suggest that States used bipartisan redistricting commissions to draw the district’s boundaries.
They suggest improving the accuracy of the voters’ lists, and that congress members are spending too much time on fund raising. They have suggestions to alleviate those concerns.
Congressional Reform includes having congress spend more time in Washington. They suggest 5-day work weeks, three straight weeks in DC and 1 week in their home district. They Senate and House should be similar schedules. They suggest that the President meets with the leaders of the House and the Senate at least once a month, and, that the Congress should invite the President to attend caucuses twice a year. There was discussions on the filibuster and ways to include the minority party in the policymaking process. They suggest automatic discussions of amendments from both parties. They are suggesting that Congress develops a two-year budget system.
In their “Call to Service” thread, they are seeking a more engaged electorate. The BPC suggested having all Americans aged 18 to 28 year old commit to one full year of service to the community and the nation. The service could include the military, running for office, mentoring, civil service such as Peace Corp and Americcorps, or non-profit and religious entities.
Is there hope that this document might be the catalyst that decreases the wide divide that is holding up the government? Chuck Todd of MSNBC, who called the Blueprint a “guide about how to get a long.”, interviewed Trent Lott and Tom Daschle about the Blueprint. The BPC members’ feel that many congressional leaders will be willing to consider, and hopefully accepting many of their suggestions.
Would our congressman, Tom Reed, be in favor of the Blueprint?