House Democrats frequently reference the hundreds of bills they passed that sit stagnant in the Senate. Now a group within the chamber is preparing to suggest an alternative: The House should take up bipartisan bills the Senate has passed.
The Problem Solvers Caucus, which includes 48 House members divided equally between the two parties, is considering roughly a dozen of the 80-some bills that the Senate unanimously passed to promote as a package. Caucus Co-Chair Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) said Tuesday lawmakers are working with the senators who sponsored the bills, as well as committee chairs and House leadership. He hopes to have a list finalized by the end of the month.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), who also co-chairs the caucus, said the plan has twin objectives: to encourage the Senate to, in turn, move some of the bipartisan-passed House bills, and to allow lawmakers of both parties to notch legislative wins.
“The idea that there’s a bipartisan bill that’s actually a good piece of legislation that we can get done and show we can actually govern, that benefits both sides,” he said.
House leadership has the proposal on its radar. An aide to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said they are open to reviewing the caucus’s suggestions and are waiting to see which specific bills are recommended. House leaders also plan to continue to push the Senate to take up the at least 275 House-passed bills that included at least one Republican vote or sponsor.
Legislation under consideration covers topics including security in the court rooms, cyber security and veterans — what Reed called “bread and butter” issues. The caucus is looking into passing the bills through faster measures designed for non-controversial bills, such as under suspension of the rules or through unanimous consent.
When asked why the bills haven’t passed already, Reed summed it up in a word: “Politics.”
“It’s committee jurisdiction issues. It’s, ‘I don’t like that senator.’ It’s petty,” he said. “We’re peeling back the onion of the institution.”
There are other reasons Senate-passed bills might not reach the floor. Lawmakers only have so much bandwidth to clear legislation. And just because the Senate passes a bill doesn’t mean House members know about it, especially if the Senate passes the bill by unanimous consent, which often happens at the end of the day and takes a matter of seconds. Reed said he was surprised to find there were 80 bipartisan Senate bills the House had yet to take up.
“It was an eye-opening moment for many of us,” he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org