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Problem Solvers Caucus Members Discuss Compromise In The Legislative Process


The American people have spoken. But what exactly did they say? Well, they rejected an incumbent president, and that's a rare rebuke. But by and large, they did not reject his party. And that either means compromise on Capitol Hill or more gridlock. We're going to turn now to two members of the so-called Problem Solvers Caucus. That's a group of lawmakers who champion compromise. Let's remember that word - compromise. Mark Amodei is a Republican from Nevada's 2nd District, which includes Carson City.

Thank you so much for being with us.

MARK AMODEI: Thank you, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And Stephanie Murphy is a Democrat from Florida's 7th District. That's around Orlando.

Thank you so much for being with us.

STEPHANIE MURPHY: Great to be with you, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So first of all, congratulations to you both. You were both reelected.

MURPHY: Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This has been a brutal election. It has left both parties - and this is for lack of a better word - radicalized in some portions. You've got progressives pushing back very hard on any claim that their policy positions were responsible for the weaker-than-expected performance by Democratic candidates. Meanwhile, you've got a lot of Republicans who fully embrace Trumpism and, in fact, want to double down on it, not to mention also embracing sort of dangerous and destructive conspiracy theories like QAnon. If calling for compromise hasn't worked over the last decade, what's a compelling argument for it now? Representative Amodei, you first.

AMODEI: Well, I think if you go back to the Problem Solvers Caucus, the compelling argument is, in our business, the bottom line is votes. And so, you know, I'm a naive guy. It's like, well, I think if you want to campaign for reelection, the strength would be on what you did as opposed to how much you hate the other side. And so having said that, you say, what's different now? It's like this group is different in terms of - it came about because of people like Stephanie and people on her side of the aisle and on my side of the aisle that said, yeah, I want to go back and say that I did something as opposed to - I just, you know, parroted the partisan talking points, which, quite frankly, on both sides have some depth problems.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Representative Murphy.

MURPHY: Well, I think across this country, you see exhausted Americans. And the fact of the matter is that we are in the midst of a pandemic and an economic crisis. So there is no other choice than to find a way to work together across the aisle. And what's great about Problem Solvers is that we have been doing this for a while. So I think that's a lot to build on and a really great position to be in as we go into this divided Congress with Joe Biden in the White House.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We won't exactly know if it's a divided Congress because, of course, there are two Senate races that are going to a runoff in Georgia. But I'm curious to know what specific areas of cooperation you both are eyeing - I mean, obviously, immigration, changes to the tax code, health care. And we should remind our listeners that the Affordable Care Act is going before the Supreme Court this month. Representative Murphy and then Representative Amodei.

MURPHY: I think our first priority is to get an additional COVID relief package out the door into the pockets of the American people and American businesses. And then after that, we should look at things that can help with our economic recovery. And that means investments into our infrastructure. And then, of course, we have to address things like taxes and immigration and things that help our economy grow. All of those are key elements to help our economy grow and ensure, you know, equal opportunity at the American dream. And it allows for the hard work to result in good outcomes for the American people.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Talk to me about immigration in particular. I mean...

AMODEI: Well, you know, Problem Solvers actually were the ones who put - it was Jimmy Pineda's ag immigration bill that that we basically shipped out of the House. You know, it seems like a long time ago. It's probably eight or nine months. And there were Republicans that supported that. And so immigration is one, quite frankly, Lulu, that the answers are out there. The problem is it's been uber-politicized by both sides. And it's like, you know, it needs to be dealt with. When you talk to businesspeople, the Chamber of Commerce, you know, people (unintelligible) - well, these will be conservative or whatever - they all want immigration reform. And there are ways to do it without breaking the rules.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you think it will be easier with President Trump out of the office?

AMODEI: You know what? I think, actually, when you look at what he's really said about immigration, he wasn't the problem. I mean, he wanted the wall and stuff. But in terms of merit-based - and we've got to deal with these folks. I mean, I think, quite frankly, he felt some pressure when you talk about dealing with DREAMers and stuff. And it's like, hey, you know what? That's kind of why these offices exist. Time to show some leadership.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Representative Murphy, I mean, can Democrats be bold under these conditions? It's not just politicians on the left who want the party to be bold. It's actually the base as well.

MURPHY: I think that if Democrats who want to be bold - and by bold, meaning that - getting something done - so there's a difference between messaging and waving your arms and making it look like you're trying to do something and actually delivering law that changes people's lives. From my perspective, being bold means delivering ideas that become law that change people's lives. That's bold.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And has the Problem Solvers Caucus actually done that?

MURPHY: I think there are areas in which the Problem Solvers Caucus has demonstrated that it can bring together Republicans and Democrats. And in a closely held House, that'll be more important than ever to be the ballast to the extremes of both parties.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Stephanie Murphy is a Democrat from Florida's 7th District, and Mark Amodei is a Republican from Nevada's 2nd District.

Thank you both very much.

AMODEI: Thanks, Lulu.

MURPHY: Great to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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