Republicans retained control of both the House and Senate in the Nov. 8 elections, but the gap between their party and Democrats narrowed with Democrats picking up two seats in the Senate and five in the House.
That will make it even more important for farm organizations to find Democrats they can work with to pass needed legislation, says Beau Greenwood, executive vice president of government affairs and public relations for CropLife America.
Greenwood, a speaker at the Southern Crop Production Association’s annual meeting in Amelia Island, Fla., is a veteran of a number of legislative battles, including efforts to pass the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011, H.R. 872, which sought to overturn a court ruling requiring EPA to issue NPDES permits.
H.R. 872 and later versions of the bill passed the House on more than one occasion but never made it through the Senate, a fate it shared with other legislation, which was bottled up by Democrats.
“I will tell you as somebody working on behalf of this industry that when we try to advance policy priorities we routinely for the last eight years have hit a roadblock, and that has been trying to identify those key, albeit the few, Democratic members to help us get across the finish line,” said Greenwood.
Recruiting key leaders
“Our challenge is not with the Republican Party, our challenge is identifying and recruiting those key Democratic leaders we can partner with to support American agriculture. We don’t have the Howell Heflin’s and David Pryor’s, but we’ve got to find ways to turn key Democrats back to supporting agriculture because you should be able to simultaneously protect the environment and create a certain business environment for regulated industries, as well.”
Greenwood’s comments came during a mock debate held between stand-ins for President-elect Trump and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the day before the election. Greenwood, who worked on the staff of the late Sen. Howell Heflin, D-Ala., was the stand-in for Secretary Clinton.
Contacted after the elections, Greenwood said bipartisanship could be even more important following the Republican wins in the presidential, House and Senate races.
“I think with the narrower majority in both chambers is going to force people to negotiate and make Congress relevant again,” he notes. “Working across aisles to find common ground with Democrats is the way you get stuff done.
“Regardless of the final election outcome, my message to SCPA, I think, is still legitimate and as valid as it was on Monday.”
One of the reasons for that is that Senate Republicans are still nine votes short of 60 votes, the number needed to stop debate in the upper Chamber. Someone will have to find a way to move those nine votes to the affirmative side to pass legislation.
“That’s what used to happen,” said Greenwood. “(Then Senate Majority Leader) Bob Dole would reach across the aisle and talk to (Minority Leader) George Mitchell and, later, Tom Daschle, and they would work things out.”
Greenwood said he believes the country has a real opportunity to find common ground despite the differences that divided Republicans and Democrats in the months leading up the hotly-contested election.
“I think once the dust settles there could be an opportunity – that might shock us all – to reset politics back closer to the center where the majority of us reside. I love what Trump said during the campaign ‘Whatdya go to lose?,” he said.
“Building relationships across the aisle is like planting good seeds that will establish a stronger foundation to hold the center. It’s how the country used to move forward by working together to solve problems. That’s how the Food Quality Protection Act was passed 20 years ago.”
For more information, visit http://www.croplifeamerica.org/.