By Sarah Schroeder
The transition of Presidential power creates a new set of opportunities and challenges for Congress. Congress must find a way to navigate the transition to work towards achieving their own agenda and working with the new president.
This afternoon we had the privilege of meeting with the Congressman for Iowa’s Third District, David Young. While speaking to our group, Congressman Young frequently mentioned a desire for unity and increased bipartisanship. Iowa’s third district is a primarily white and urban area of Iowa, with a fairly even number of democrats and republicans.
Representing a district with many constituents not in alignment with Congressman Young’s own party, Young has an obligation to work on bipartisan measures. After all, elected officials serve their whole constituency, not just those who voted them into office.
Iowa’s third district is comprised of 16 counties, from Dallas and Polk to Pottawattamie and Ringgold. As a member of Congress, Young’s duty is to be the voice of his constituency in the House of Representatives.
In order to understand his constituents, Young visits each county every month to meet with constituents and hear their voices. Young calls these visits his “sweet sixteen.” Congressman Young frequently attends his constituent’s events, and hosts town-hall style meetings and ‘coffee with my congressman’ events.
There are many other avenues for elected officials to stay in contact with the citizens they represent and ensure that they understand what the constituents desire. Young’s approach signifies a commitment to his district and creates a sense of approachability and an genuine effort to represent the district well.
Although Young focused primarily on working together with Democrats and understanding his constituents during our conversation today, Congress is facing a difficult period with the incoming President-elect.
Gridlock frequently occurs with the transition of power, as the new President and Congress’s environment is a inherited landscape from the previous administrations. Before meeting with Congressman Young, we had the pleasure of discussing Congress with Sarah Binder, senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and professor of political science at George Washington University. Binder specializes in Congress and legislative politics.
Because the new policy landscape is not entirely created by the administration in power, gridlock and stalemate frequently occur at the beginning of a president’s term. New administrations from both parties struggle to create significant change at the beginning of their terms.
The 115th Congress is already underway, but most of their challenges with come after Trump’s inauguration. It is clear that although the Republican party has the majority in both the House and the Senate, as well as the presidency, it will not always be easy to achieve a strict conservative agenda. In the Senate, 60 votes are required to achieve cloture and get any legislation passed. Republicans have the majority in the senate, but only with 52 members. In order to achieve cloture, Republicans must reach across the aisle to gain Democratic support.
Bipartisanship, or a lack of it, has been the subject of much conversation during President Obama’s second term and during the past election cycle. Parties and politicians are increasingly polarized and unwilling to work with their counterparts.
Congress will need increased bipartisanship and unity in order get their work done, and maybe Congressman Young’s sweet sixteen is a start.