We are Ready to Pick Our Next Issue
It’s an exciting time to do this! Because of our success championing solutions on surprise medical billing and infrastructure that were wise enough to attract bipartisan support, Congress is more interested in our work than ever. In fact, a few senators have recently asked if we could accelerate our work this year. They see our results as crucial to getting something meaningful passed before the shadow of the upcoming mid-term elections makes it even more difficult to pass commonsense solutions in these bitter partisan times.
Picking our issue to brief is the first of our four steps. Once we’ve picked our issue, we’ll take the second step of developing a full policy brief on it. The staff will be working hard in the coming months to make the strongest case for each competing perspective on the chosen topic.
Then, we’ll take the third step. You will have at least a month to spend the 90 minutes you committed to reviewing the brief and weighing in. You’ll be asked whether you support or oppose each specific proposal in the brief.
In our fourth and final step, we’ll engage Congress with the results. Each of us will contact our Representative and Senators to share our own individual views. Our staff will also conduct congressional briefings with the results. On surprise medical billing, for example, we conducted more than 150 congressional briefings. On infrastructure, we engaged with 42 senate offices and 171 House offices. It has been truly faith restoring to see how enthusiastically Members of Congress have responded to our work. They are grateful to hear from a large, informed, bipartisan group of Americans interested in commonsense solutions.
Taking the First Step
Below we describe ten topics on which we could develop CommonSense American briefs. Your ratings will determine which topic we choose.
This year has been the toughest yet to find possible topics where there are both meaningful solutions and good prospects for bipartisan action. On top of the already high level of toxic partisanship in the Congress, the mid-term congressional elections where control of both narrowly divided houses is at stake makes bipartisan problem solving even more challenging.
Still, the input from the White House and Republican and Democratic lawmakers suggests areas where meaningful bipartisan action may be possible. It is particularly striking this year how much consensus exists that one particular topic—elections legislation—is more promising than the rest. In the two previous times we’ve picked issues at CommonSense American and in the five times we did it in the state pilot, we’ve never had one issue rise so far above the rest in the eyes of lawmakers in both parties.
Our aim is to identify and champion solutions wise enough to attract wide support across our political divides. In this effort, we want to consider the most promising proposals. By promising, we mean ideas that have the best combination of being achievable and meaningful.
Achievable—A proposal that has a decent chance that Congress will pass it because there is already significant bipartisan support.
Meaningful—Passing this legislation would make a real difference.
Below we ask you to rate how promising each proposal is on a 5-point scale from "Not Promising" to "Extremely Promising."
Please rate no more than three proposals as a “5—Extremely promising.”
We then also ask you to give your rank order of the 10 issues.
The topics are currently listed in rank order from most to least promising based on interviews with the White House and Republican and Democratic lawmakers.
The judgment that matters, however, is yours. Your ratings will determine which issue we work on together.
Thank you for helping choose our issue.
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This is a read-only version of the Issues List. The Survey questions have been removed.
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For very different reasons, leaders of both parties have been questioning whether we can trust the results from our elections. A lack of faith in our election outcomes on both the left and right poses a serious threat to American self-government. The ability to trust that our representatives have been determined by the voice of the people is the bedrock of the most successful republic in history.
There are significant federal legislative proposals from both the left and right that are unrealistic this year because the other side vigorously opposes them. The bipartisan group of roughly 20 senators led by Senators Manchin (Democrat – West Virginia) and Collins (Republican – Maine), however, is making impressive progress. This is mostly the same group with whom we worked on infrastructure legislation. The level of bipartisan support that is needed is far from assured. Still, this impressive bipartisan group of senators is having success identifying commonsense measures wise enough to attract support from both Republicans and Democrats. Their progress, combined with positive signals from both Senate Majority Leader Schumer (Democrat – New York) and Minority Leader McConnell (Republican – Kentucky), give legislation that could make our election results significantly more trustworthy a unique chance of passing in 2022. Some of the most influential senators have specifically encouraged us to pick this issue because they believe we could play a significant role by demonstrating whether, and where, broad consensus exists among the American people.
The legislative provisions with perhaps the best prospects are updates to the Electoral Count Act. Passed by Congress in 1878, it establishes the requirements for how and when states certify and send the results of the presidential election to Congress. It also establishes the procedures by which Congress counts the electoral votes sent by the states and resolves disputes over a state’s slate of electors. In the eyes of both Republicans and Democrats, January 6, 2020, revealed shortcomings of the Electoral Count Act (ECA). For example, there is considerable bipartisan agreement that the ECA should make clear that the role of the Vice President is simply to open and count the electors certified and sent to the Congress by the states. All congressional Democrats and many Republicans disagree with the suggestion by President Trump and others on the right that the ECA gave Vice President Pence the authority to reject a slate of electors certified by a state. Recognizing that such power would now give Vice President Harris the authority to reject electors when she presides after the 2024 election, most Republicans agree with Democrats that such a fundamental violation of the principle that the American people choose the president should be addressed.
Another example of federal legislation that may attract bipartisan support is increased funding for state and local governments to administer elections. Many on both the left and the right observe that election equipment is aging and not as reliable as it should be. In particular, there is broad agreement that states and local governments should have the resources needed to purchase modern polling equipment with a paper trail. There is also wide agreement that we don’t invest enough in recruiting, training, and supporting election workers.
Prescription drug prices are hitting Americans hard. The average American now spends approximately $1,200 per year on medication – more than anyone else in the world. Prescription drug spending and price increases have surged more in the U.S. in the last decade than in other countries. Price surges for insulin have particularly attracted interest because it is so widely used and because the price in the U.S. for this century-old medicine has doubled, and in some cases tripled, in the last decade.
Several factors contribute to rapidly rising drug prices in the America. Most countries control or negotiate drug prices. The U.S. government does not. There are unique challenges to bringing generic drugs to market in America. Pricing and business practices in the pharmaceutical industry are less transparent in the U.S. than in other countries.
Many in Congress on both the left and right and both former President Trump and President Biden have called for measures to address the surging costs of prescription drugs. Still, congressional action has been repeatedly frustrated. Strong partisan differences remain on how to address the problem and powerful interest groups oppose many measures. Most lawmakers believe that the obstacles to passing bold drug price legislation are even greater now that we are approaching the 2022 mid-term elections. Still, some more targeted legislation may yet be possible. Perhaps the leading example is legislation that would address high insulin prices.
A growing bipartisan consensus concludes that there is a need to bolster America’s ability to compete economically by investing in scientific research and development as well as in our domestic manufacturing and our supply chain. For example, Republicans and Democrats largely agree on $52 billion in federal funding for various investments encouraging domestic manufacturing of computer semiconductor chips. There is also significant bipartisan consensus that these efforts are needed to compete economically, particularly with China.
Beyond that, significant disagreements remain between Democrats and Republicans and between the House and the Senate on how much to invest in other aspects of the competitiveness problem. Most believe it will be very difficult to overcome these obstacles in 2022.
Many Big Tech corporations, including social media firms, make money from extensive personal information they collect about each of us. Using algorithms and artificial intelligence, they draw on that personal information to offer ads that are more effective for their customers. Concerns about data privacy and monopoly power have caused a bipartisan groundswell in Congress to act.
Many believe that Congress may take bold, bipartisan action to address these problems in coming years. While some of that bold agenda may be beyond reach in this year with the coming elections, narrower legislation targeted may yet be possible. The leading example may be data privacy for children. There is bipartisan support for legislation that would protect children from ads targeted at them. One provision would prohibit tech companies from collecting personal data on children or at least prohibit using such data to make ads more appealing to them. Another provision would bar ads targeting children altogether. President Biden cited these legislative efforts in his State of the Union address as an example of one of the four areas for bipartisan action he proposed, noting the importance of these reforms for children’s mental health.
SOURCE: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, nearly three million members of the armed forces deployed overseas to serve their country. Many veterans face significant personal and economic challenges upon returning home. Thousands have serious health complications.
Over 100 bills have been introduced to address issues that U.S. veterans are facing. If we chose the veterans topics, we would focus on the most meaningful bills that have bipartisan support.
President Biden suggested veterans’ issues as another of the four most promising issues for bipartisan action. A leading example of legislation he suggested is a bill that would recognize and address the devastating health effects that veterans suffer from exposure to burn pits. Open air burn pits were commonly used in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of waste, including rubber, chemicals, paint, plastics, petroleum products, and medical and human waste.
In fact, there is so much bipartisan support in Congress for burn pit legislation it may move too quickly for us. The House has already passed a bill 256-174. Several Members of Congress have warned us that it may pass before we would have a chance to brief and poll our members on it.
Nevertheless, other veterans’ bills might attract enough bipartisan support to pass in 2022 that we could work on such as addressing the problem of homelessness among veterans.
The COVID pandemic led to a major expansion of telehealth. The alternative of seeing a healthcare provider online allowed thousands to get treatment without the risk of infection that came with visiting a doctor’s office in person. Consequently, various emergency exceptions were granted to provide for greater use of telehealth. Many had advocated for such expansions for years, arguing that modern technology makes this a sensible way of providing greater access to high quality healthcare cost effectively. Many are convinced by the experience during COVID that the temporary exceptions should be extended or made permanent. Particularly with the investments in broadband being made by the infrastructure legislation passed last year, a bipartisan consensus is growing that telehealth is an attractive alternative that should be expanded, not rescinded.
A range of bipartisan legislation is under consideration to expand and improve mental health resources in this country, including to address substance abuse disorders. Like with telehealth, expansions and resources that were provided during the pandemic are set to end. Many Republicans and Democrats are considering legislation that would increase access, invest in making treatments more effective and more affordable for patients. There is particular interest in expanding and improving mental health care for veterans and for children, who were particularly impacted by the pandemic.
The opioid crisis in America became even more severe during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 75,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in the last year, up from 56,000 the year before. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total economic burden of prescription opioid misuse in the U.S. is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.
Concern over the crisis has led to a growing bipartisan consensus that we must do more to ensure that Americans struggling with these issues have access to safe, effective, life-saving treatments. President Biden has identified the opioid crisis as one of his four suggested areas for bipartisan action.
National Service/Learning Loss
The months American students spent in remote learning and the other challenges the pandemic created led to substantial learning loss, particularly for disadvantaged students. Bipartisan support is growing to expand national service opportunities for recent college graduates to help address the learning loss. By expanding national service programs like AmeriCorps, this legislation would provide opportunities for more college graduates to tutor students who need it, support teachers, and help with afterschool and summer programs.