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Study highlights bipartisanship

Bipartisanship is such a rarity in national politics that when it occurs, it’s news.

We live in an era when many people see things as black and white, even though most things are shades of gray. It’s common to criticize the mainstream media, yet plenty of people believe the most ridiculous and fake things they read online. Here’s a helpful hint: just because someone posts a wild conspiracy theory on Facebook doesn’t mean it’s true.

If you don’t support the president, you’re labeled a socialist or your patriotism is questioned. On the other end, if you agree with the president, you’re a fascist or a racist.

Republicans get criticized for following Donald Trump while Democrats get accused of getting their marching orders from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

So it was with interest that I read a report on bipartisanship from the Lugar Center and Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy.

The Lugar Center is a public policy institution founded by former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican who died in 2019. The McCourt School is considered one of the nation’s best when it comes to public affairs.

Each year, the center and school work together to come up with a bipartisanship study of all U.S. House and Senate members.

The two review every bill introduced in Congress, excluding resolutions, to determine if those introduced by members receive co-sponsorship from those from the opposite party. What is considered is how often members add their names in support of a bill introduced by the other party and the amount of bipartisan support for a bill.

While nothing is perfect, it’s a solid indicator to determine how bipartisan a member of Congress has been.

There are numerous people who don’t want their House or Senate member to be bipartisan.

For Republicans, it’s frowned upon to co-sponsor a bill with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is an independent but caucuses with Democrats, or U.S. Sen Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat.

For Democrats, co-sponsoring legislation with U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas or Richard Shelby of Alabama, both Republicans, is seen as bad.

In the study of the 2019 session, it showed. Sanders finished last in terms of bipartisanship while Shelby finished second to last with Cruz and Feinstein doing better, but still toward the bottom.

How did the members of Congress who represent the Mahoning Valley do on the study?

The report showed U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, was the 35th-most bipartisan House member. It’s not an anomaly. He finished 97th during the 2017-18 House term and 72nd during the 2015-16 session.

Is Ryan a partisan? Probably as much as the next member, but the report shows he works across the aisle significantly more than the typical member of Congress on legislation.

The same can be said for U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Bainbridge Township.

Joyce was 40th overall in the study of 2019 bills. Like Ryan, it’s a pattern. Joyce was 56th during the 2017-18 session and 29th during the 2015-16 term.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, didn’t rank as high.

He was 281st among the 435 House members last year. He ranked a lot higher in previous studies. Johnson placed 149th in the 2017-18 report and 205th in 2015-16.

Johnson said he’s worked with Democrats over the years and has had 17 bipartisan bills signed into law. Ryan has said that he works with Johnson on bipartisan legislation to benefit the Mahoning Valley.

Johnson also is a staunch Trump supporter who has been openly critical of Democrats.

“My responsibility is to vote for what I believe to be in the best interest of those I represent, no matter what an inside-the-beltway university’s rating system might say,” he said.

Johnson rarely disappoints when it comes to quotes critical of D.C., where he’s been the last decade. But he knows his constituency, and they love the president.

Skolnick covers politics for the Tribune Chronicle and The Vindicator.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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