Editor’s Note: Mia Love is a CNN Political Commentator who just completed her second term representing Utah’s 4th district. Before Congress she served as a mayor and city council member in Utah. Love made history as the first and only African-American Republican female member of Congress. The views expressed in the commentary are the author’s own. View more opinion at CNN.
As the partial government shutdown drags on, many members of Congress seem to be finding creative new ways to wage an optics war instead of viewing this as an opportunity to tackle pressing or longstanding issues facing the nation.
Earlier this week, newly elected Democrats including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez chose to march to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office to deliver a letter urging him to reopen the government. In the age of Twitter popularity contests, I guess they concluded that this was somehow more productive than directly engaging in dialogue with members of the opposing party and trying to reach a consensus.
Despite President Donald Trump’s initial statement that he would be “proud” to shut down the government for border security, he has since gone to great lengths to pin the blame solely on Democrats. Unfortunately for him, recent public opinion polls show that the majority of Americans are not drawing the same conclusions that he is.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a golden opportunity to make a real immigration reform deal as part of the negotiation to open up the government. The deal could potentially include a resolution for Dreamers or grant temporary protected status to immigrants who are unable to return to their origin countries.
About 800,000 federal employees are still furloughed or working without a paycheck as a result of the shutdown, and they are being overlooked while politicians put their own interests first.
Rep. Ben McAdams, who prevailed in the 2018 midterm election and now represents my district in Utah, has attempted to play victim in all this. After electing to have his congressional pay withheld until the shutdown is over, he went to local media outlets to say, “I’m not able to get into an apartment until I have a pay stub.” He added, “It causes some stress for the family, but I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Really? For starters, he wouldn’t have gotten that pay stub until the end of January – regardless of whether he chose to have it withheld. He went so far as to liken his situation to that of hard-working government employees, even though he previously made about $200,000 a year as mayor of Salt Lake County.
Other elected officials are content simply hurling accusations on Facebook, believing that at least they can convince their followers to hate the opposing party enough to win the next election. For them, tribal victory is more important than legislative accomplishments.
The American people deserve better. Numerous politicians talk about the need for “both sides to come together,” but most of them aren’t actually speaking to their counterparts and proposing realistic ideas.
In fact, many of these elected officials haven’t even articulated where they stand on issues related to the shutdown, where they’re willing to compromise, and what they’re trying to do to resolve the impasse. Lip service like this is just one reason why Congress’ approval rating remains perennially awful.
Members of Congress should remember that they are not victims or hapless spectators – it is their job to make laws. The current shutdown became the longest in US history after it surpassed the 21-day shutdown that began in December 1995. Recently, John Kasich explained on CNN that the 1995 impasse ended with a bipartisan balanced-budget agreement. As the former Ohio governor said, “[W]e weren’t there to make any political statement. We weren’t there to say, okay, what is our base, or anything like that. Our purpose was to get the job done.”
This is what Americans want and deserve. It’s time to move past the social media battles and tribal warfare. It’s time to leave the spectacle behind. And it’s time for both sides to negotiate a deal that benefits the American people.