While the dust continues to settle from last week’s midterm elections, divided government will continue to reign supreme in Washington when the new Congress convenes in January.
As of this writing, Republicans will win an extremely narrow majority in the House of Representatives, while Democrats will claim at least 50 seats in the U.S. Senate, and perhaps 51 after next month’s runoff election in Georgia.
With 73 percent of voters in the CNN national exit poll saying that they were dissatisfied or angry with the direction of the country, it’s clear that voters are expecting something different from Washington and weren’t too keen on delivering either party full control of the federal government.
Leaders in both parties appear to be receiving the message. President Biden told reporters after the election that, “I’m prepared to work with my Republican colleagues (and) the American people have made clear, I think, that they expect Republicans to be prepared to work with me as well.” Republican Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole said, “by dividing power, (voters) are effectively saying, ‘We expect you to work together in some areas, but we don’t want you to continue down the path you’re on.’”
So what can Republicans and Democrats in a sharply divided Washington actually accomplish? PRI’s “Congress To Do List” offers several market-based solutions in health care, energy, and education that have the potential to achieve broad, bipartisan support in the new Congress. Here are 3 ideas that should be at the top of the list:
- Restricting Electric Car Subsidies to Low Income Americans – As PRI’s “Costly Subsidies for the Rich” study has documented, taxpayer-funded electric car subsidies primarily benefit wealthy car buyers. Our research shows that 79 percent are claimed by households making more than $100,000 per year.While we can debate whether taxpayers should be footing the bill for electric car subsidies at all, as suggested in the energy Congress To-Do List, the new Congress should move fast to enact income eligibility standards for electric vehicles, restricting them to households making under $75,000 per year. Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree that the wealthiest Americans shouldn’t benefit from big taxpayer subsidies.
- Education Savings Accounts for Children of Military Personnel – As evidenced by the recent battles over school choice, charter schools, and curriculum, the debates over education policy have become increasingly polarized between the two parties. But when it comes to ensuring that the children of our military personnel are well-educated, there should be broad, bipartisan support.One idea from the education Congress To-Do List that could be embraced by both parties is ensuring that federal education funding is attached directly to the children of military personnel through such choice mechanisms such as an education savings account. With these children often uprooted depending on their parents’ military assignments, it only makes sense that these students receive more school choice options.
- Expanding Scope of Practice Laws – As PRI’s Sally Pipes wrote in her latest piece for the Washington Examiner, “divided government means that legislation must have bipartisan appeal if it’s going to have any hope of advancing.” One idea from the health care Congress To-Do List that she suggests could garner strong, bipartisan support in Congress is legislation relaxing scope of practice restrictions for nurse practitioners.
Right now, doctors must be present for nurse practitioners to do routine things like routine patient testing. These restrictions limit health care accesses, especially in rural and underserved communities. Passing reforms to remove these restrictions for Medicare and Medicaid patients could help the U.S. overcome the current shortage of 17,000 primary care providers it faces today, according to the latest federal government data.
Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s senior director of communications and the Sacramento office.