LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Congressional gridlock is holding country back

The United States Constitution charges our president with nominating Supreme Court Justices, with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate. The president and every single senator swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and thus an obligation to abide by it. President Obama fulfilled his constitutional obligation by nominating Judge Merrick B. Garland. Now the Senate should do its job.

Unfortunately, Senate Republicans appear poised to abdicate their constitutional duty. Sen. Mitch McConnell stated the Senate will simply “withhold consent” and will likely refuse to even hold hearings on a nominee. This marks a new low for a Congress that too often confuses gamesmanship with governing, and procrastination with progress.

This type of obstruction would be unprecedented. In fact, since 1912, six Supreme Court Justices have been confirmed in a presidential election year, including most recently Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was confirmed by a Democratic Senate during President Reagan’s final year in office.

Sen. Bryan Townsend

Sen. Bryan Townsend

Under the current Congress, gridlock and obstruction have become the new normal. In just the past few years, we have experienced two debt-ceiling crises, hundreds of filibusters and a government shutdown. Those are just the immediate self-inflicted wounds. Gridlock has also denied us from addressing our greatest long-term challenges.

We have serious issues in Delaware and America, and we need serious leaders to put forth solutions. We need to repair our broken roads and bridges and to guarantee every child access to a world-class education. We need problem solvers to push forward plans that solve our student loan debt crisis and preserve and strengthen Social Security and Medicare. And we need bold ideas to end mass incarceration and ensure every Delawarean has opportunity to prosper. Those are just some of the solutions I have offered at bryantownsend.com and all across the state during my campaign for Congress.

Our unwillingness to take on big issues is holding us back. American excellence has always been a result of our ability to think big and build a brighter future. Yet in recent years, Congress has chosen short-term crises over long-term solutions. As Americans, we should know better and be better. We cannot build a road to prosperity if we cannot even fix the potholes.

How did Congress become paralyzed by partisanship? Certainly, gerrymandered districts and the toxic role of big money in politics have empowered extremists with no interest in governance. That is why I have been at the forefront of fighting for independent redistricting reform and campaign finance reform in Dover. It is why I will remain at the forefront on those fights in D.C.

But voters must also demand more from our elected officials. We should stop rewarding politicians who contribute to the dysfunction by simply saying “no” to everything, or who wait until campaign season to begin talking about progress. We should punish those politicians who make weakening the president their only objective. No longer can we tolerate dysfunction from our government or our leaders.

Dover is not perfect, but we have found ways to work together to get things done. I led the effort to establish driving privilege cards for undocumented Delawareans by bringing together Democrats and Republicans, police and community leaders, to draft a bill that engendered broad support.

And because of the coalition we brought together, that bill passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed into law. Our roads are now safer as a result, and more people are participating in our economy now that they have a path to do so.

We know there are very real policy differences between Democrats and Republicans, and I will fight for thoughtful solutions to the problems we face in Washington. But as I have done in Dover, I will work to forge common ground and build consensus whenever possible. I will look to both sides of the aisle for serious allies willing to solve serious problems, and I will call out those who are not, regardless of party affiliation. We simply cannot afford to continue playing politics with our nation’s future.

State Sen. Bryan Townsend

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sen. Townsend, a Democrat, is a candidate for U.S. Congress.

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