Congress is working (again) and it's a pleasure to watch

Both Republicans and Democrats have an even shot of getting their amendments considered in both the House and the Senate. Bipartisanship is breaking out in unlikely places.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky gestures to a colleague before the start of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's address at a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Members of the House of Representatives are happier than they have been in a decade, and that because of the change in the Senate.

This isn’t a partisan statement. It’s a fact.

Congress is back at work on both sides of the Capitol.

Both Republicans and Democrats have an even shot of getting their amendments considered in both the House and the Senate.

Bipartisanship is breaking out in unlikely places. The president is working with Mitch McConnell and Speaker John Boehner on trade legislation. The speaker and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi worked together to put together a permanent fix to reimbursements to doctors. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton is working on a package with his Democratic counterparts to give the National Institutes of Health adequate funding to find cures for chronic and costly diseases. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker took the politically toxic subject of Iran and found common ground with the Obama Administration.

It didn’t have to work out this way.

In the aftermath of the president’s executive order on immigration, relationships between the Congress and the executive branch were, shall we say, unfriendly.

But lingering distrust between the two branches didn’t dampen the congressional leadership’s desire to get their work done.

The promise of regular order and an easing of bitter partisanship has given insiders a glimmer of hope that Congress can break the gridlock and move forward on getting the work of the American people done.

It hasn’t been easy. McConnell has to deal with four presidential contenders on his side and a surly minority leader on the other, while Boehner has the Freedom Caucus to contend with.

And there have been some hiccups. A short three-week continuing resolution (CR) on Homeland Security failed in the House. A sex trafficking bill in the Senate got bogged down in partisanship, delaying the approval of Loretta Lynch’s nomination as attorney general.

But these both proved to be teachable moments for the congressional leaders and their respective bodies. Boehner taught his more conservative friends that he would leave without them if they didn’t want to get in the car, while McConnell proved to Democrats that he wouldn’t be intimated by race-baiting from the left. He moved the Lynch nomination when he got agreement on a bill that would later get 99 votes.

This portends good things for future. If Congress can do a trade bill, an SGR bill and pass a budget, why can’t they pass urgent reform of our corporate tax code? Why can’t they get their appropriations work done? Why can’t they reach some agreement on how to fix our immigration laws?

Most importantly, Members of both the House and the Senate now understand that if they work hard, if they come up with good ideas, and if they come up with the votes, they can successfully represent their constituents. This is Congress at work, and it is a pleasure to watch.

John Feehery publishes his Feehery Theory blog at

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