Skip to main content


Top 10 Bipartisan Issues

We’re ready to pick our 2023 issue!

It’s an exciting year to do this. Because of our 3-for-3 record successfully championing into law measures wise enough to attract broad bipartisan support, Congress is listening to us more than ever.

Below is our 2023 Top 10 Bipartisan Issues list. We describe each topic so you can judge which is most promising. Your ratings will determine which topic we choose.

By promising, we mean the best combination of meaningful and achievable.

  • Meaningful—Passing this legislation would make a real difference.
  • Achievable—Issues with meaningful proposals that have a decent chance of passing in Congress because there is already significant bipartisan support.

Read more about what happens after we identify our issue.

Identifying our issue is the first in our four-step process for helping commonsense legislation pass Congress. Once we’ve picked our issue, we’ll take the second step of developing a full policy brief on it. CommonSense American staff will work with relevant experts in the coming months to make the strongest case for and against each of the most promising proposal under the chosen topic.

For the third step, you’ll review the brief and indicate whether you support or oppose each proposal described.

In our fourth step, we’ll engage Congress with the results indicating where there is broad support and where there isn’t. For example, we conducted over 50 congressional briefings last year on our Electoral Count Reform Act results, briefings which played a major role in its passage.

How We Develop the Top 10 List

We’ve narrowed the many issues before Congress down to ten by talking to the White House and more than 40 congressional offices. Of the many issues before Congress, the ten that made the list offer the best combination of being meaningful and achievable. The higher on the list an issue is, the more promising it is in the collective view of the senior staff for the congressional offices we met with.

Judging achievability depends on understanding current dynamics in Congress. Beyond where they fall in the rank order, on several issues we thought it would be useful to know more about the unique congressional circumstances around those issues. For such topics, we’ve provided an Achievability Note.

Read more about our method.

We develop the Top 10 list in six steps:

  1. The White House—We start in January each year by asking the White House for a list of promising bipartisan issues.
  2. Congress—We then begin meeting with senior congressional staff, typically the Chief of Staff and/or Legislative Director for a given Member of Congress (MOC). We focus particularly, though not exclusively, on the offices of those MOCs who have a strong track record of bipartisanship. Since Democrats control the Senate, we met with more Democratic than Republican Senate offices. Since Republicans control the House, we met with more Republican than Democratic House offices.
  3. Free Response—We start congressional meetings by asking them which issues they believe are the best combination of meaningful and achievable.
  4. Reactions to the Emerging CommonSense American List—In each meeting, after the staff members have nominated the issues they believe are most promising, we share our current draft list of issues. In the first congressional meeting, we share the list from the White House. In subsequent meetings, the list includes additional issues frequently nominated in previous congressional meetings. We ask them to give each issue one of three ratings: (1) Yes, they agree it’s promising, (2) Maybe, meaning passing something meaningful in that issue area is possible but more difficult, or (3) No, it’s unlikely that something meaningful could be signed into law this year.
  5. Coding Congressional Responses—Any issue that congressional staff nominate as promising in the free response (not in reaction to our draft list) is coded as a “1.” Issues rated as a “Yes” in response to our list are coded as a “0.5”. Issues rated as a “Maybe” are coded as a “0”. Issues rated as a “No” get a “-1.” We continually calculate the weighted average rating of each issue as we proceed through our congressional meetings. Those ratings determine the rank order of the draft list we present in subsequent meetings. To calculate the weighted average rating, we first calculate the average Republican and the average Democratic rating. Then, we take the average of those two averages to be sure that we are weighting Republican and Democratic responses equally.
  6. Congressional Rank Order—Once we’ve completed our last congressional meeting, we email a link to the congressional staff with our final Top 10 list in rank order according to the weighted average described above. We ask them each to re-order the list from most to least promising in their view so that the rank order we give you is as accurate as we can make it. The final rank order is similarly weighted. We calculate the average Democratic and the average Republican ranking and then take the average of those two. That results in the “Average Congressional Rank” which determines the rank order in the list below.

While we work hard to provide you with the view from Congress, that is only to inform your judgment. The perspective that matters is yours. The issue that gets the highest ranking by CommonSense American members will be the one we work on together this year.

Your Ratings

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 “Extremely promising.”

We then also ask you to give your rank order of the ten topics from most to least promising.

On to the issues! We can’t wait to see what you think.


Join Now & Weigh In

Membership is required to weigh in. But rest assured that we only collect basic information to make sure our membership reflects the country politically and geographically.

Member Log In

This is a read-only version of the Issues List. The Survey questions have been removed.

Log in or Join Now to weigh in.

Farm Bill Reauthorization

Farm Bill ReauthorizationWith the current Farm Bill expiring, reauthorization legislation is one of the most likely bills to pass this year. The legislation covers a broader range of topics than the name suggests. Most significantly, more than 75% of the over $700 billion in baseline five-year spending is for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Previously known as food stamps, SNAP is the nation’s largest food benefits program for those in need. Each year about 42 million Americans receive a total of over $120 billion (an average of between $2,500 and $3,000) in SNAP benefits to help them put food on the table. Another 5% of Farm Bill spending is for conservation programs on farms and in our nation’s forests.

Modifications to SNAP benefits are perhaps the most significant changes to the Farm Bill being contemplated, including changes to the size of the benefits and work requirements. Currently, able-bodied SNAP recipients aged 19-49 without dependents generally can receive no more than three months of benefits within a three-year period unless they work or participate in job training for at least 20 hours per week or participate in a drug or alcohol treatment program. States can obtain waivers that allow them to reduce the federal work requirements.

If we were to pick this issue, the brief would focus on the most meaningful proposals to change provisions in the current farm bill, including:

  • SNAP Spending Levels—Increase, decrease, or keep overall SNAP spending the same
  • SNAP Work Requirements—Increase or keep SNAP work requirements the same
  • State Exceptions for SNAP Work Requirements—Restrict or increase the ability of states to obtain exceptions to federal work requirements
  • SNAP Fraud—Increase oversight and enforcement of SNAP fraud
  • SNAP Healthy Food Requirements—Restrict SNAP benefits so that they cannot be used to purchase unhealthy foods like soda or potato chips
  • Conservation Spending Levels—Increase, decrease, or keep funding for conservation programs the same
Congressional Rank: 1st
(2.9 Average Rank across participating congressional offices)

Achievability Note

With better than an 85% chance of passing, the Farm Bill reauthorization is uniquely achievable legislation in 2023. In the four years we’ve picked issues, we’ve never had one on the list nearly this likely to pass. In fact, the likelihood of passage is so high it raises a question about whether it would be a good choice for us. If it’s that likely to pass anyway, is it a good use of our unique ability to help Congress pass bipartisan solutions it might not be able to pass without us? On the other hand, what exactly is included in the Farm Bill is far from certain. Many Republicans are advocating for lower overall spending, including on SNAP and conservation, and increased SNAP work requirements. Many Democrats are advocating for more SNAP and conservation spending and oppose increasing SNAP work requirements. By picking this issue, we could make a difference by identifying where there is bipartisan grassroots support and where there isn’t.

Opioid (Including Fentanyl) Crisis

Opioid TreatmentAmerica’s opioid crisis continues to grow more severe. More than 80,000 Americans per year die from opioid overdoses, including fentanyl. Estimates of the total economic burden of opioid misuse range from a low of $140 billion (an average of about $425 per person in the US) to over $1 trillion per year (over $3,300 per person). Those expenses include 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 do more to address it. Frequently mentioned proposals include:

  • High Tech Screening—Invest in equipment that can detect fentanyl or its precursor ingredients that come into the country illegally but through the mail or through legal ports of entry, typically hidden on ships or in the vehicles of American citizens returning from Mexico
  • Prevention and Treatment—Increase investments, or at least maintain the increased funding provided during the COVID pandemic
  • Test Strips—For example, make strips readily available that allow one to detect fentanyl or Xylazine, another dangerous drug that is sometimes included with fentanyl or other illicit drugs. Many overdoses occur because the person did not know that these dangerous ingredients were in the drug they were taking
  • Enhanced Law Enforcement—Increase the penalties for the illicit manufacturing, distributing, and/or illegal use of these drugs as well as more robust enforcement to keep dealers from using social media to sell their drugs, especially to minors
Congressional Rank: 2nd
(3.4 Average Rank across participating congressional offices)

Professional and Technical Training

Several bipartisan proposals would increase accessibility to training and education that is more directly connected to careers than most college degrees. There is an increasing consensus that these bills would meaningfully boost the nation’s economic prosperity and result in more people working in better paid and more rewarding occupations for three reasons. First, alternatives to four-year college degrees currently have far less federal investment. These alternatives, like vocational and technical training and apprenticeships, can lead to financially and professionally rewarding occupations, including as a plumber, electrician, truck driver, automotive repair technician, certified nursing assistant, and IT professional. Second, the rising costs of college degrees saddle students with levels of debt that can be overwhelming. Third, the demand for well-trained professionals in many of these areas is going unmet, limiting economic growth.

Specific proposals include:

  • Extend Pell Grant Funding—Make credit and non-credit programs eligible that are shorter format than college degrees, are aligned with local labor market needs, and lead to credentials recognized by employers and approved by state authorities (A Pell grant provides federal support for students that doesn’t have to be repaid. Eligibility is based on financial need and education cost, with the maximum grant currently at $7,395)
  • Extend Use of “529” Education Savings Accounts—Make skills training, credentialing, and certification programs eligible for spending from these accounts that have major tax advantages to encourage saving
  • Enhance Apprenticeship Programs—Expand access to and lower the cost of apprenticeships through increased state tuition assistance funding for registered federal programs that combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction, including college courses, to prepare workers for highly skilled careers
  • Apprenticeship College Credits—Allow workers to earn credits for completed apprenticeships
Congressional Rank: 3rd
(4.7 Average Rank across participating congressional offices)

Permitting Reform

Permitting ReformThe US is unusual in how long it takes for federal agencies, state and local governments, private companies, and public/private partnerships to get permits to build infrastructure and energy projects. Much of the delay comes from the unique way that the US approaches the review of a project’s environmental impacts. While permitting in other developed countries with environmental standards as high or higher than those in the US typically takes about two years, in the US it often takes five years and can take ten years or more. The longer processes add significantly to the cost of these projects. One analysis found that a six-year delay in permitting doubles the cost of a project.

Various proposals would build on bipartisan measures in recent years to streamline the process without lowering environmental standards. In other words, whether the project is approved or rejected because of its environmental impacts, these proposals are designed to ensure that the decision is made more quickly. Specific proposals include:

  • Require and Fund Accelerated Review Processes—Provide increased funding for the many federal and state agencies involved in permitting to coordinate and accelerate their review processes without compromising the thoroughness of the review
  • Greater Enforcement of Deadlines—Develop and implement means of enforcing deadlines that currently exist for agencies to complete various stages of the review process to move away from the current practice of virtually no consequences
  • Regional Environmental Assessments—Identify larger geographic areas with lower environmental sensitivity through scientific assessments. These reviews would be done in advance of any particular proposal, for example to build a wind or solar project, so that approval of the projects can be accelerated
Congressional Rank: 4th
(5.1 Average Rank across participating congressional offices)

Achievability Note

Because they reduce the inefficiencies of federal regulations, these proposals have long attracted Republican support. Support among Democrats and environmentalists has been increasing recently because the permitting delays significantly slow many green initiatives, including clean energy and public transit projects. Many argue that the US cannot meet its climate change goals without additional measures to speed up the permitting process while maintaining high environmental standards. In the last few years, permitting reform has taken on greater urgency because legislation like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the Inflation Reduction Act provided historic levels of new funding for infrastructure and green energy projects.

Small Business Support

Rate the Issues - Small Business SupportSmall businesses were especially hard hit by COVID. Recognizing that much of our job and economic growth comes from them, there is bipartisan interest in helping small businesses. Proposals include:

  • Increase Access to Capital—Provide more loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA)
  • Cut Taxes—Lower the tax burden on small businesses and their owners, including by allowing small businesses to fully write off investments in research and development from their taxes in the first year those investments are made
  • Make It Easier to Provide Health Insurance—Shore up the small-group health insurance market so that small businesses can better attract, retain, and treat their employees
Congressional Rank: 5th
(5.4 Average Rank across participating congressional offices)

Achievability Note

While support for small business in general is clearly bipartisan, the challenge is finding practical federal measures in which both Democrats and Republicans have confidence. Many Republicans and some Democrats are concerned because too much small business COVID relief funding was spent unwisely. Under instructions to get the relief out quickly, the SBA did little to verify that applications were legitimate. The SBA’s inspector general has identified $78.1 billion in potentially fraudulent loans. Many Democrats are concerned that the tax cut options available will end up helping wealthy individuals who are already doing well at the expense of middle- and working-class Americans who are struggling.

Mental Health

Rate the Issues - Mental HealthThe opioid crisis is just one of many indications of a growing mental health crisis in the country. More than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with mental illness at some point in their lifetime. In any given year, one in five Americans will experience mental illness. A range of bipartisan legislation is under consideration to expand and improve mental health resources in this country, including to address substance abuse. Various proposals would increase access and affordability and would invest in making treatments more effective. Some of the urgency to address the problem this year stems from the funding and regulatory provisions provided during the pandemic that are expiring. There is particular interest in expanding and improving mental health care for youth and for people who live in rural areas or have low incomes.Specific proposals under consideration include:

  • Create Telehealth School Programs—Provide federal grants to help school districts fund programs that would provide mental health services in a private setting for students
  • Increase the Number of Mental Health Professionals—Address the shortage of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals by providing increased funding for training and other measures
  • Increase Call Centers and Wraparound Support Services—Provide more federal grants for states to fund call centers and services like mobile crisis teams
  • Ensure Mental Health is Covered by Insurance—Improve enforcement of mental health parity laws that require insurance, including Medicaid and Medicare, to cover mental health and substance abuse equitably with other health conditions
  • Adopt Opioid Crisis Proposals—The relevant mental health proposals described under the opioid crisis issue also apply here, including increased investments in opioid abuse treatment and prevention as well as enhanced law enforcement to keep dealers from using social media to sell illicit drugs, particularly to minors
Congressional Rank: 6th
(5.5 Average Rank across participating congressional offices)

Technology Privacy

Big Tech/Data PrivacyMany Big Tech corporations, including social media firms, make money from the extensive personal information they collect about each of us. Using algorithms and artificial intelligence, they draw on our 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.Mounting evidence of how devastating the use of social media is for the mental health of youth, including contributing to higher suicide rates among teenage girls, have given additional urgency to measures that would address that problem.

Technology privacy proposals include:

  • Increased Safeguards for Youth—Prohibit tech companies from collecting personal data on children, bar them from using such data to make ads more appealing to them, or bar ads targeting children altogether
  • Require Greater Social Media Accountability—Change current laws protecting social media firms from being held responsible for disinformation, cyber-stalking, online discrimination, and illicit drug dealing on their platforms
  • Require Greater Anti-Trust Enforcement—Address anti-competitive behavior by big tech firms through establishing tougher anti-trust requirements for those firms and/or increasing enforcement of existing laws
  • Require Increased Data Security—Pass measures like mandating that consumers be enabled to access and correct the data tech companies keep on them and requiring those companies to inform users when their data are being used to “score” them as good prospects for various marketing campaigns
  • Increase National Security Safeguards—Limit access of foreign governments to private data about Americans collected by tech firms, particularly by Chinese firms including Tik Tok because of concerns that the Chinese government can demand access to those firms’ information
Congressional Rank: 7th
(5.7 Average Rank across participating congressional offices)

Rural Healthcare Access

TelehealthHealthcare is becoming increasingly difficult to access in much of rural America. The core of the problem is attracting enough doctors and other healthcare professionals to work there. Proposals to address the problem that are drawing bipartisan interest include:

  • Invest More in Training—Increase funding for rural area residency programs for doctors and training for physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, and nursing assistants and for other incentives to take jobs in rural areas
  • Enhance Rural Telehealth Options—Extend the relaxation of regulatory limits on the use of telehealth services that began during the pandemic as well as invest in the required infrastructure (like broadband internet) and equipment, in part so that general practitioners, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, etc. can consult effectively with specialists in urban areas
Congressional Rank: 8th
(6.0 Average Rank across participating congressional offices)

Healthcare Transparency and Competition

Healthcare Transparency CompetitionHealthcare costs in the US continue to increase substantially. Spending on healthcare has gone from 5% of the total economy in 1960 to 18% today or about $12,900 per person. There is some bipartisan agreement that one important reason for increasing healthcare costs is a lack of transparency about the true costs and prices of various products and services. Without knowing the price, and the actual costs behind those prices, patients and insurance providers don’t have an option to shop for more cost-effective services.A second point on which many agree is that increasing consolidation in the healthcare industry is contributing to increasing costs because it also reduces competition. For example, hospitals and physician practices are under increasing pressure to join larger hospital systems.

Proposals to bring down healthcare costs by addressing these problems include:

  • Require Greater Price and Cost Transparency—Invest in greater enforcement of existing transparency laws and/or develop additional requirements
  • Enhance Anti-Trust Measures—Require and fund greater enforcement of existing anti-trust laws and/or develop additional requirements
  • Improve the Cost Savings from Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs)—Require and enforce greater PBM transparency. PBMs were established to bring down the costs of prescription drugs but have been disappointing in practice. This is in part due to the deals they have with drug companies that frequently aren’t disclosed.
Congressional Rank: 9th
(7.3 Average Rank across participating congressional offices)

Immigration Reform

Immigration ReformOur system of managing immigration is ineffective and inappropriate in virtually everyone’s view. There is wide agreement that more illegal immigration exists than is appropriate, safe, or fair for anyone. There is also shared concern that on one hand our economy depends on undocumented workers, yet on the other hand our system consigns them to a dangerous life in the shadows. Concern is even higher for the children of undocumented workers who have grown up here and don’t know the country from where their parents came or its language yet face the prospects of being deported there.Proposals to address the problems include:

  • Invest in Capacity to Process Asylum Claims—Hire more judges and staff as well as build more facilities to more quickly process the claims of those who show up at the border fleeing dire circumstances in their own country
  • Reform the Visa System—Make it more rational and efficient and allow more workers to come into the country who are needed for particular roles
  • Increase Border Security—Build a more extensive and effective fence or other barriers on the southern border and provide more enforcement resources to secure the border, particularly in areas where the flow of illegal immigration is highest
  • Aid the Countries from Which People Are Fleeing—Reduce the urgency felt by those seeking to come to the US by helping address the underlying problems in the countries they are fleeing
  • Provide a Path to a More Viable Status for Those Who Entered Illegally as Adults—Establish criteria by which undocumented workers can gain a more secure status. For example, criteria might include having a job and no criminal record for some period and/or paying a fine as punishment for coming into the country illegally. The new status could be citizenship, or it could be the ability to apply for driver’s licenses, social security numbers, and/or work permits
  • Provide a Path to a More Viable Status for Those Who Entered Illegally as Children—Officially allow them to become citizens or apply for driver’s licenses, social security numbers, work permits, and/or college or other professional and technical training programs, since they were not responsible for the decision to come into the country illegally and may be ill-equipped to return to their country of origin
Congressional Rank: 10th
(8.9 Average Rank across participating congressional offices)

Achievability Note

Several of the immigration reform measures listed above attract broad bipartisan support, including boosting capacity to process asylum claims and reforming the visa system. However, we frequently heard doubts about passing these broadly supported measures in our congressional meetings because of what was often referred to as immigration hardliners on both the right and the left. Many Republicans won’t support any immigration reform if the legislation doesn’t also provide for significantly greater investment in constructing borders walls than Democrats will accept. Many Democrats won’t support any immigration reform if the legislation doesn’t also give them the provisions on paths to a more viable status for undocumented workers and their children that many Republicans won’t accept.

Join Now & Weigh In

Membership is required to weigh in. But rest assured that we only collect basic information to make sure our membership reflects the country politically and geographically.

Member Log In

This is a read-only version of the Issues List. The Survey questions have been removed.

Log in or Join Now to weigh in.