December 22, 2017

New Democrat Coalition: 2017 YEAR IN REVIEW

2017 has been a year unlike any in recent political history. His inaugural address notwithstanding, we hoped that President Trump would bring the country together behind shared priorities such as increased infrastructure investment, bipartisan tax reform, and lowering the costs of healthcare. Instead, Republicans took a much more divisive approach and pursued a go-it-alone strategy. I remain concerned about the direction of the country, but as we conclude 2017, I am excited by the work of the New Democrat Coalition and the opportunities that lie ahead.

This year the Coalition inducted fourteen freshman Members and three additional Members at the start of the Congress. The diverse group of new Members has helped the Coalition continue to advance innovative, pro-growth policies, and we hope to add additional Members in the future.

Even though partisanship has been at an all-time high in Congress, Coalition Members continued working towards bipartisan solutions and passed legislation to address the problems we face as a nation. Our approach remains the same, which I articulated back in April in a Washington Post op-ed I co-authored with Tuesday Group Co-Chair Charlie Dent. We said:

“Compromise may not be glamorous and may not play well on cable television, but it is an absolutely necessary component of successful legislation. Ideological purity is a recipe for continued bitterness, a divided nation and stalemate. We know that these common-sense, nonpartisan, pragmatic, forward-thinking initiatives will summon Americans to do what they do best: Rise to the challenge of innovation, creativity, fairness and service. Failure to seek commonality or accept incremental progress will threaten more than our congressional seats and reputations. It puts our systems of government at risk. We owe it to our country to do better.”

Those words were true then and are still true today. You can count on New Democrats to continue working on issues that move the country forward.

We are also working on a vision for the future of Democratic leadership as we head into 2018. In August, I delivered the Democratic Weekly Addressand highlighted New Democrats’ fight to expand economic opportunity to all hard-working American families:

“Today, we are distracted by a Tweeter-in-Chief who deepens our divisions, sows seeds of discord and fans the flames of violence. Our country needs and deserves leaders who will encourage us to be our better selves and who will champion the ideas that we know are good for our nation. These are the ideas that animate A Better Deal for families across America.

“Democrats are all about opportunity, growth, innovation and the good jobs that follow. We will not be distracted. We will not be deterred. Because we understand something that President Trump never will: that our world can be a far, far better place — and that together we can make it so.”

Thank you for your continued engagement with the New Democrat Coalition. Below and online here are key highlights from the Coalition’s work in 2017.

On Tax Reform

New Dems have long supported comprehensive tax reform that will promote economic growth, is targeted towards our middle class, and is fiscally responsible. We believe tax reform done right is important for middle class families, American businesses, and keeping our national economy competitive. Early on in the year, New Dems met with Chairman Brady several times to discuss the potential for a truly bipartisan tax reform package. Despite New Dem Members’ willingness and openness to work across the aisle, Republicans charted a partisan path forward on tax reform. New Dem Members also urged the Conference Committee to abandon their partisan approach and instead pursue a true and serious bipartisan effort outlined in the New Dem tax reform principles: The Plan for Real Tax Reform.

On Health Care

From the beginning of the year, New Dems advocated for a legislative fix to stabilize health insurance markets and bring down the cost of healthcare for all Americans. Led by our Health Care Task Force, the Coalition released Solutions Over Politics: Stabilizing & Improving the Individual Marketwhich offered proposals to create a permanent reinsurance program, reduce healthcare costs for low-income Americans, promote greater insurance coverage, create a greater number of affordable insurance options, and improve the marketplaces. Members sent letters to Speaker Paul Ryancalling on him to lead in a bipartisan manner to stabilize and improve the individual health insurance market while protecting the Affordable Care Act. We also sent a letter to Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) calling for a bipartisan path forward on legislative solutions to reduce health care costs. More on how the New Dem principles catalyzed the bipartisan momentum in The Hill.

On the Future of Work

Technology and globalization continue to change the economy and Americans’ role in the workplace. Recognizing the need to update policy to reflect how the economy works today, New Dems started a conversation this year with several experts on topics ranging from economic trends, to how work is changing in the 21st century economy, to skills training, and to portable benefits. New Dems sent a letter to President Trump calling for a robust commitment to apprenticeship programs and urged Congress to invest in apprenticeship and training programs. We also sent a letter to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and introduced an amendment that unanimously passed the House urging changes in BLS’ data collection.Lastly, New Dems introduced a bipartisan bill to plan for the future of work.The Future of Work Task Force is drafting a policy white paper that outlines policy ideas to make sure all Americans have the opportunity to succeed in the changing economy, to be released next year. Read our preview in this Huffington Post op-ed.

On Infrastructure

New Dems are willing to work across the aisle and with the administration to revitalize our nation’s infrastructure and provide the necessary foundation for robust growth and new jobs. For too long, Congress has relied on irresponsible, stop-gap measures that hinder economic growth and make it more difficult to ship American products domestically and overseas. New Dems sent a letter to President Trump on the opportunity to move a big infrastructure package tied with tax reform. To help build momentum for a forward looking approach to infrastructure, New Dems convened a panel of experts to discuss infrastructure policy, innovative funding and financing models, opportunities for public-private partnerships, and responsibly streamlining regulations and the permitting process without compromising quality. New Dems also released a set of principles to increase long-term federal investments in infrastructure improvements.

On Cybersecurity

Cyber threats have evolved alongside new innovations and technologies, therefore Congress must do more to secure our nation, families and businesses. New Dems sent a letter to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) urging improved cybersecurity hiring practices. The Coalition also unveiled a robust cyber policy plan in response to the recent high-profile cyber incidents and the rise of Ransomware that have shown the very real consequences of cyber threats. Read more in Safeguarding our economy and our future in The Hill.

On the Budget

New Dems continued urging for long-term fiscal responsibility and investment in the priorities key to keeping our country competitive. We outlined key policy priorities in a letter to Speaker Ryan and Budget Committee Chair Diane Black for the Fiscal Year 2018 budget resolution. New Dem Members continued pushing for increased federal investment to find cures and treatments for diseases that impact families across the country. We also helped lead a letter to the Committee on Appropriationsrequesting increased funding for the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) research into diseases that affect millions of Americans. More on New Dems working with the Republican Tuesday Group on NIH funding in The Hill.

On Trade

New Democrats support a pro-growth, pro-worker, forward looking trade agenda where the U.S. sets the rules for the global economy, rather than have them set by others. We need to focus on winning the economy of the future, not the economy of 50 years ago. That means writing the rules of trade to elevate standards while leveling the playing field for American workers, businesses, and farmers. Over this past year, New Dems held several internal meetings with former and current officials and experts on trade relations with North America and the Asia Pacific region. New Dems issued a statement after President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and in response to the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) notification to Congress on its intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Key New Dems sent a bipartisan letter calling on President Trump to continue honoring the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) when it came under threat.

On Housing

Years after the housing crisis, our economy is not providing enough affordable housing options, leading to shortages across the nation. Constituted this year, the Housing Task Force is building on previous New Dem efforts on Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSE) reform and broadening these efforts to address the full scope of housing policy at various levels of government. Over this year, the Task Force brought together thought leaders and industry experts to discuss the various factors that led to housing supply shortages and unaffordability. The Task Force is working to develop a policy document in the New Year.

New Democrats will continue to push for forward-looking legislation that will help grow our economy and increase opportunity for all. We look forward to continued work to advance these and other key priorities for the American people.

Sincerely yours,
Jim Himes

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By:  New Democrat Coalition