Problem Solvers Caucus Panel Spurs Discussion

Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Dori Dugan, former State Rep. David Steil, and Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). Photo by Rick Rickman.

The vice-chairs of Congress’ Problem Solvers spoke with 20 Bucks residents Monday night to promote centrism and bipartisanship. Congressmen Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Tom Suozzi (D-NY) met with people dissatisfied with national politics at the Crossing Vineyards and Winery in Washington Crossing.

Two locals in the region organized the event to promote the Problem Solvers Caucus and compromise; Dori Dugan, who is a registered Democrat, and David Steil who served as Yardley’s representative in the state House from 1992 to 2008 coordinated despite their party differences.

“We are soft R’s and soft D’s, and we believe that the only way we can move forward is when we come together in the center. It’s center forward,” Dugan said. “We are growing a group of people who are willing to say something positive about another party. We are growing a group of individuals who are willing to compromise on issues because we realize we cannot be polarized.”

Wine barrels at Crossing Vineyards and Winery in Washington Crossing.

The Problem Solvers Caucus is composed of 40 members of Congress, 20 from each party. New members can only join if there is someone from the opposite side of the isle who also wants to join.

One attendee, Eileen Reed, spoke to reporters as the event was wrapping up. She is politically active, and attended several meetings in protest of the Elcon toxic waste facility in Falls Township.

To put it mildly, Reed is not a fan of President Trump or the Republican party as a whole. She also protested at Fitzpatrick’s office for 72 weeks. Yet in 2018, she voted for Fitzpatrick, citing his personal integrity.

“We are so far apart as D’s and R’s. We have to come together as A’s for America,” Reed said.

The Problem Solvers Caucus lost members in the 2018 midterms, as many moderate Republicans were voted out of office. Yet, Fitzpatrick is not concerned and says the long term advocacy for compromise is more important.

“Our focus solely is on quality, not quantity. We want legitimate members that believe in bipartisanship, and we just gotta win people over one person at a time,” Fitzpatrick said.

The Discussion

Suozzi and Fitzpatrick also agreed the far extremes, despite making up smaller portions of the electorate, often speak loudest. Suozzi referenced a study called “The Hidden Tribes” that found only 8% of people support the far left, while just 6% support the far right.

The majority, who lie in the center, make up 52% of U.S. citizens. However, they are much less politically active.

Wine vats at Crossing Vineyards and Winery in Washington Crossing.

“We don’t get people at our offices protesting with signs that say ‘We want more compromise,'” Fitzpatrick said.

Worse still, the Hidden Tribes calls roughly half of that 52% the “politically exhausted.” This group, which makes up a quarter of the country, are so fed up with Washington D.C. they don’t even bother.

Most moderates do not vote in primaries, meaning party candidates can sometimes be decided by extremists. Suozzi spoke about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez winning her election in the 2018 midterms.

While her district has roughly 691,000 people, only 26,000 people voted in her primary election. An even smaller number voted for “AOC” with less than 16,000 votes. This means just about 2% of the entire district actually voted for her in the primary election. With such a blue-leaning district, this almost ensured a victory in November.

Suozzi hopes the issue of infrastructure can bring the leadership of both parties together in the coming months. Each party wants to spend money to repair bridges and roads, but the differences come in how to pay for a plan.

Fitzpatrick will soon journey up to Suozzi’s district to fulfill the Problem Solvers Caucus bipartisan district swap. Monday night’s panel came after a long day of bipartisan forums, including with Bristol Borough small business owners.