Editorial: Breaking down party lines

Position: Partisan politics slow down Congress. Drastic changes need to be made in order to expedite legislation.

Ideally, the United States would have a bipartisan government that operates in the interests of the people; however, the current situation in Congress tells a different story. Legislators tie up important bills in petty arguments over party policy, and not enough gets done.

Members of Congress operate within rigid party lines. Republicans in Congress receive pressure from the conservative right to enact more reactionary legislation, while Democrats push back against these measures with their own liberal agendas.

These party divisions pose serious problems for efficiency within Congress. Legislators stand by their political beliefs come hell and high water, and stubbornly refuse to compromise on any issue. Over the past two years, this has posed multiple problems for the 113th Congress.

In October 2013 the government shutdown because the Republican House demanded the spending bill for the next fiscal year include measures that would defund Obamacare. In response, Senate Democrats rejected any bill that would harm the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” in any way. Their inability to agree meant that no spending bill was passed before the end of the fiscal year, and government programs across the country were shut down. According to the Wall Street Journal, more than 800,000 workers were furloughed during the two-week period.

The Office of Management and Budget reported that the 2013 government shutdown cost the U.S. government more than $2 billion. The Republican Congress will be at odds with Obama for the next two years, and depending on the next president, the 114th Congress could be as unproductive as the 113th. If the United States wants to maintain its position as a major world power, it cannot afford to squander time and resources over Congressional disagreements. Changing the way Congress currently operates is vital to keep the United States government functioning at a level that meets the standards of the American public and the world at large.

Congress could start by enacting a proportional representation system. Current winner-take-all elections put too much power into the hands of one party. Proportional allots a percentage of the seats in the House and the Senate to whatever percentage of votes a party received. For instance, if the Republican Party received 30-percent of the vote, the Democratic Party received 50-percent, and a smaller third party received 20-percent, the Republicans would hold 30-percent of the seats, the Democrats 50-perecent, and the smaller party would hold 20-perecent. This allows for both the minority party, as well as smaller parties that have no chance of ever winning against the Republicans or Democrats in a winner-take-all election, to still influence legislation and policymaking.

Since the House of Representatives is technically an example of proportional representation in Congress, many claim that enacting proportional representation all throughout Congress would be excessive. However, the inability of Congress to operate efficiently is proof that the House isn’t enough, and proportional representation needs to be more widely present in Congress.

Proportional representation would both allow for more of the electorate to be heard in Congress, as well as reduce partisan politics in Congress by introducing third, and even fourth or fifth parties into the House and Senate. Compromises would be reached with greater ease and efficiency, and Congressional deadlock would begin to release its chokehold on American policy.

Senators and Representatives need to put the needs of their country before those of their respective parties when they work in Congress. If there is a way to avoid any trivial arguments in the American government, policymakers need to find it, and fast.