It’s no secret that the U.S. body politic is rife with labels. Whether it’s ‘us versus them’ and ‘red versus blue,’ it seems as if the days of political collaboration are long gone. Jon Stewart, the former host of “The Daily Show,” once lamented that TV programs like CNN’s “Crossfire” had reduced politics to a spectator sport.
The spirit of bipartisanship might actually be growing. According to a new report from Georgetown University and the Lugar Center, a nonprofit public policy institution based in Washington, D.C., there may yet be hope for bipartisanship.
Dan Diller, director of policy at The Lugar Center, says the institution’s Bipartisan Index has measured a noticeable increase in representatives in Congress crossing party lines to sponsor legislation.
“The average score in the 114th Congress is much worse than the average score for the entire period running back to 1993,” Diller says “but it is an improvement over the previous Congress and the Congress before that. We are living in a very partisan era and yet the 114th Congress, the one we just finished here in 2016 is better than any of the last three, so we’re stepping up from a very deep hole.”
Diller says the metrics used in his organization’s research are indicative of this trend because they measure how willing members of Congress are to ignore their party affiliations to build bipartisan bills from the very beginning.
Though on the national level, this metric has translated to increased in bipartisanship, Diller says Texas remains a little behind the curve.
“Texas is not scored especially well on this test in terms of senators,” Diller says. “The only senator since 1993 to have a score above zero, which means they were better than the average score over that time, was Kay Bailey Hutchison. Every other senator who’s served since 1993 has been below water. Sen. Ted Cruz, in fact, the last two Congresses has been 97th out of 98.”
Though the trend for Texas congresspeople tends to be more partisan than not, Diller says there is an exception. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo), who ranks eighth out of 427 House members surveyed.
Even more interesting is Cuellar’s pride in the fact that he works in bipartisan ways, Diller says.
“He’s cited our index several times in stump speeches… so he’s taken it to heart that this is a good thing to try to do,” Diller says.
Written by Morgan O’Hanlon.