The next Congress, with a Republican Senate and a newly Democratic House, will face some of the greatest challenges of any age. With so much at stake, it is critical that lawmakers from both parties reject the scorched-earth partisan warfare that turned recent sessions into some of the least productive and most contentious in history.
For the Democrats, whose strong showing in this month’s midterm elections boosted them to control of the House, there will be a strong temptation to use that platform to hammer a president who has spent the past two years tweeting vitriol and rage against political opponents.
There may well be justification for investigations into corruption and collusion charges — the House Judiciary Committee, most likely under the leadership of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn) will play a pivotal role. But it is just as important to work quickly and effectively to restore a functioning legislative branch that actively seeks solutions to a long list of pressing problems.
An early priority must be protecting vital human service programs that congressional Republicans suggest may be facing crippling cuts, including Medicare and Social Security. The soaring federal deficit must be addressed, but not on the backs of the millions of Americans, including so many in our own community, who depend on these programs.
Priorities include ensuring that efforts to undo the Affordable Care Act do not abandon many Americans, including those with pre-existing conditions. It includes thoughtful immigration reform, balancing our very real security needs with policies that acknowledge immigrants are part of the fabric of a vibrant America, and will be in the future.
In the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue murders, the new Congress should consider whether funding to increase security for synagogues and other at-risk religious institutions is sufficient. And it is long past time for responsible legislators from both parties to seek clear-headed, practical ways to address the gun violence that has ravaged so many communities. There are no easy answers, but we refuse to believe that turning schools, synagogues, theaters and shopping malls into armed camps is the only solution.
We’re not naive; we don’t expect a golden age of bipartisanship. But legislators have an opportunity to set a new tone on Capitol Hill and help demonstrate that Congress should be about sober legislation, not partisan theatrics. Leaders in both parties need to step back from the edge and start putting the urgent needs of the nation first.