These days, it often seems like the only thing we agree on in politics is just how much we disagree.
In 2016, the Pew Research Center found that roughly half of registered voters, Democrat or Republican, were "afraid" of the opposing party. And the more a respondent was involved with politics, the more that fear grew. A July NPR/PBC Marist College poll found that nearly three-quarters of registered voters, and a majority of both Democrats and Republicans, felt that partisanship and civility between the parties has grown worse. And Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal published a poll that found 80 percent of respondents said the country was "mainly or totally divided."
Together with a slipping congressional calendar and record-low approval ratings, many here in Washington might already miss the comparatively halcyon days of August recess.
But those poll numbers don't tell the whole story. National Taxpayers Union's seventh annual "No-Brainers" list should give lawmakers and voters some optimism about getting Congress back on track. As in years past, each bill meets two important criteria: bipartisan support and a common-sense solution to a real problem facing taxpayers. These aren't proposals to mint commemorative coins or name post offices. Each bill tackles important policy issues and demonstrates that there can be broad support across a variety of issues when partisan politics are put aside.
The list includes substantive legislation, such as proposals to repeal the dreaded Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) -- a key part of President Barack Obama's healthcare law that gave an unaccountable board the power to ration health care and impose draconian price controls. Legislation to fully and permanently repeal IPAB has bipartisan support in both chambers, led by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. In the House, the co-sponsor list has topped 262, including 43 Democrats.
Likewise, the "Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act" (S. 642, H.R. 1555), introduced by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Reps. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., would constitute a sweeping reform of federal asset forfeiture laws. The FAIR Act would prevent federal law enforcement agencies from taking private property without charging owners for a crime, require an increased burden of evidence (including for seizures made by the Internal Revenue Service), and eliminate the perverse incentive whereby agencies have profited from forfeitures.
It should seem like common sense to require an individual be charged with a crime before their property can be seized by federal agents, but unfortunately, that's not the case, and civil asset forfeiture is a growing problem. The Institute for Justice, a non-profit libertarian law firm that has been fighting forfeiture abuse, found that in 1986 the Department of Justice "took in $93.7 million in revenue from federal forfeitures." By 2014, that had ballooned to $4.5 billion a year, a 4,667 percent increase. Not only is it shocking that the government can take the property of innocent people without due process, it's even more shocking that we've allowed this practice to persist for so long.
The same should be said for obviously logical bills such as S. 1342, sponsored by Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., that would get the federal government out of the stadium construction business, or S. 696, backed by Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., that would eliminate bonus payments to federal employees found guilty of serious misconduct.
Some cynics may believe that "bipartisan" means a compromise where both parties capitulate on essential values and everyone goes away disappointed. As these bills demonstrate, that doesn't have to be the case.
Each of the bills on the "No-Brainers" list reflects solid, free-market principles. They just so happen to be the best way to address real concerns shared across the aisle. If Congress wants to turn the tide, they should pass these bills and use this exercise in policy-first governing as a model for the big challenges we face. With razor slim margins and entrenched interests on both sides, moving ahead on bills like these is the best way to give everyone some much-needed wins.
Nan Swift (@nanswift) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a federal affairs manager with the National Taxpayers Union.
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