Guest columnist Raja Krishnamoorthi: Even in chaotic Congress, we can make progress
After the spectacle of Kevin McCarthy requiring 15 ballots to secure his position as House speaker, are we doomed to two years of chaos and dysfunction? I share the concerns of many that empowering the most extreme members of the Republican Caucus could result in more partisanship and division. But I remain optimistic that the parties can find common ground on several important issues.
This is not just wishful thinking. It is based on experience. I was elected to Congress in 2016 -- the same year that Donald Trump was elected President. Republicans were the majority party in the House. I quickly realized that, to accomplish my legislative goals, I would have to work with my Republican colleagues.
One of my top priorities was to increase economic opportunities for the two-thirds of Americans who choose not to attend a four-year college. Joining with Rep. Glenn Thompson, a conservative Republican from Pennsylvania, we wrote the federal law governing career and technical education. Our bill dramatically modernized and increased funding for community colleges and trade schools across the nation after passing the Republican House and Senate and being signed into law by President Donald Trump.
As a co-founder of the Bipartisan Solar Caucus, I sought to make access to alternative energy sources another priority in Congress. I joined with my Republican colleague, Ralph Norman of South Carolina -- a member of the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus -- on legislation to streamline regulations relative to installing solar panels, thus reducing startup costs, and encouraging investment. By finding common ground between anti-regulation Republicans and pro-green energy Democrats, we were able to make progress.
In 2018, Democrats won control of the House, and I became chairman of a House subcommittee with jurisdiction over consumer protection. Partly due to my children's experience, I had become concerned about the marketing of electronic cigarettes or "vapes" to young people. With cooperation from the Republican members of my subcommittee, we investigated the purveyors of vapes, such as Juul, and exposed their predatory practices.
Now that Republicans are back in charge of the House, I will continue to look for opportunities where members of both parties can work together. Here are just a few:
Banning members of Congress from trading individual stocks. Through hearings and investigations, members of Congress are privy to inside information not available to the public. I believe the vast majority of my colleagues want to remove even the appearance of impropriety in how they handle their personal finances. Legislation I sponsored in the last Congress to end this practice received bipartisan support, and I plan to reintroduce it.
Securing the border and passing immigration reform. For too long our country has struggled with immigration challenges including record migration at our southern border, the uncertain legal status of millions of Dreamers brought here as children, documented Dreamers facing self-deportation at age 21 and a growing yearslong waiting list of high-skilled visa holders hoping to build their lives here. These issues go hand in hand, and the need for bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform could not be clearer. Any new deal will need to strengthen border security while addressing immigration backlogs and protecting Dreamers. The recent visits to the Mexican border by a bipartisan group of senators is a signal of room for compromise. For the sake of our economy, our security and the well-being of all those trapped in limbo by our current system, we cannot allow this moment to go to waste.
Countering the growing economic and military power of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Members of both parties in Congress recognize that the CCP is aggressively asserting its power and that the U.S. must respond with strong countermeasures. The social media platform TikTok has a huge number of users that continues to grow daily. Yet, under the CCP's laws, the company is required to share its users' data with the Chinese government. Republican Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and I have introduced legislation to ban TikTok's operation in this country unless it changes those policies until it is sold to an entity that is not affiliated with or influenced by a foreign adversary like the CCP.
While I am eager to work with Republican colleagues on issues of common concern, I will oppose any efforts to undermine bedrock Democratic principles, such as protecting a woman's right to control her reproductive decisions, preserving Medicare and ensuring that Social Security will be there for American seniors for generations to come.
Still, there is an opportunity for both parties in this Congress to address many issues of concern for the American people. Rather than simply writing off the next two years, we should seize those opportunities.
• U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi is a Democrat from Schaumburg serving in Illinois' 8th District of Congress.