“We can be proud Republicans and we can be proud Democrats, but at the end of the day we are Americans first.”

Reed & Fitzpatrick Tout Efforts of Problem Solvers to Find Common Ground

WASHINGTON, DC — Two leaders of the Problem Solvers Caucus appeared this past Wednesday before a virtual meeting of The Ripon Society, delivering remarks about the current political climate and the effort they are leading to bridge the partisan divide and find solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing America.

The leaders were Congressmen Tom Reed and Brian Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick represents the 1st District of Pennsylvania in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves as Republican Vice Chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus, while Reed represents the 23rd District of New York in the House and serves as the bipartisan group’s Republican Chairman. 

The Empire State lawmaker kicked off the discussion by talking about today’s hyper-partisan environment and why he believes the mission of the Problem Solvers Caucus is so important these days.

“We are a divided country right now,” Reed stated matter-of-factly. “We have so many challenges before us, from the fight against COVID-19 to our relationship with countries such as Russia, Iran, and China. I hope that the work we’re doing in the Problem Solvers Caucus is going to change this town for the good. I also hope it demonstrates that we can be proud Republicans and we can be proud Democrats, but at the end of the day we are Americans first. 

“And so as we continue to move forward through these difficult times, I just remind folks that there are still members of Congress who remember that you can do a lot of good in this town if you set aside politics as the primary motivating factor and focus on doing the people’s business first and foremost.

“Brian Fitzpatrick is one of those members. As Vice Chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus, he has earned a reputation as someone who is focused more on policy than politics, and is not afraid to work with those on the other side of the aisle to get things done.”

Fitzpatrick said he appreciated the kind words, and opened his remarks with similar praise for the Problem Solvers Chairman and the mission of the group.

“The Problem Solvers Caucus is one of the reasons I’m in Congress,” Fitzpatrick said. “Sometimes one person or one decision can completely alter the course of an organization. This is especially true for an organization like the Problem Solvers, where you have this balance of 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans who are under assault from the fringes, both the far right and the far left.It’s hard to do, but Tom has done a masterful job.

“Everything that Ripon stands for is what Tom and I believe. We believe in pragmatism. We believe in stability. We believe in listening more than lecturing. We believe that we should never allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.That’s what our Caucus is about. That’s what Ripon is about. And so it’s an honor to be with you here today.”

Following their remarks, both Fitzpatrick and Reed took a number of questions, including one about the current debate over law enforcement reform and what it will take to reach an agreement.

Fitzpatrick — who spent 14 years serving as an FBI agent before his election to Congress in 2016 — spoke first.

“I think it will take leaders like Tom and myself — particularly those of us who have a law enforcement background — to go to our law enforcement community and have them step up and lead on the issue of police reform, because there are things that need to be done. 

“Techniques need to be revisited — things like chokeholds, no-knock warrants, and having a robust database that cross checks police departments across the country to make sure that if somebody has a series of complaints filed against them, that the next police department that he or she goes to work for is not blind to those allegations. The area of qualified immunity also needs to be reformed.But it can’t be abolished because if you abolish qualified immunity, you won’t be able to recruit any new officers and you won’t be able to retain the ones you have if they’re put at that personal exposure every day for doing their jobs.”

Saying there are areas where compromise can be reached, Fitzpatrick added that the Problem Solvers have been working with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and their Chairwoman, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37) to see where these areas can be found.

“Karen has been working with us on this to her credit,” he said.“ We think we’re at a really good point. I know it’s being kicked around in the Senate now, but there is a bipartisan proposal that we all came together on that deals with the issues that we are in agreement on — particularly with regard to techniques like chokeholds, no knock warrants, robust training, body cameras, dashboard cameras, all those things that need to be done. We also need to make sure that when a police department does its hiring, that it is hiring people who look like the communities that they’re serving.”

Asked whether he believes an agreement on the issue can be reached before the end of the year, the Pennsylvania lawmaker said he was cautiously optimistic that the Republicans and Democrats working on the issue could do just that.

“We are very confident, believe it or not,” he said. “Karen Bass wants to get something done, and has been incredibly gracious. And that means a lot because she’s in the majority. She is leading on this issue and continues to lead on the issue. We got to a point on the House side that we’re comfortable with. It’s all going to be contingent upon whether the Senate can come to an equal bipartisan compromise.”

Reed agreed.

“I know that Tim Scott and those guys want to get something done, and there’s a reasonable compromise that could be hashed out,” he observed.“ A lot of that compromise is based on the work that we did in the Problem Solvers Caucus. And that was after about a good month and a half of late night meetings with the CBC, going through it line-by-line as to where could we find agreement. They brought in some experts, we brought in some experts, and we really had some good exchanges of ideas and proposals.Where the disagreement was was on the issue of qualified immunity. But once you put that aside, it was pretty impressive what you could agree to, because both sides want to do something on the issue.”

Reed and Fitzpatrick were also asked about the efforts of the Problem Solvers to reach an agreement on another COVID-19 relief package before the election, and the fact that the proposal that the Administration has put forward is based on one developed by the Caucus over the past two months.

“I have a great co-chair in Josh Gottheimer,” Reed said, “and we’ve been working on this for eight weeks now.In fact, when we returned here after the summer recess, it was, ‘Bless your heart, no one’s going to pay attention.’Last week, it became, ‘Holy cow, we changed the conversation and we had Pelosi and Schumer on their heels.We went from being called the Problem Solvers Caucus in a lot of conversations to the Problem Makers Caucus.”

“Now, we’re not being foolish and saying that this thing is going to be an easy lift to finish this off. But I can tell you, being involved in conversations over the last 72 hours, the last week and a half, the good news is that Mnuchin and Pelosi have been talking substantively and seriously about where there’s agreement.I think Mnuchin and Pelosi have a much different relationship than Mark Meadows and Pelosi have. So, it’s good to have Mnuchin and Pelosi talking.

“Our hope is that they are going to be very close with regard to the proposal that comes out and that we can continue to put pressure on the Speaker, as well as folks in the Senate, to maybe consider what the White House is putting out — which is a very reasonable proposal in my humble opinion, and one that a lot of our Democratic colleagues in the Problem Solvers Caucus are familiar with and would see as a very reasonable proposal, as well.”

As for those who say a compromise can be pushed until a Lame Duck session, Reed said the aid was needed sooner rather than later and the prospects for an agreement then were slim at best.

“I just don’t buy the argument that we can do it right after the election,” he said, “because either side is going to be fighting with each other and they’re not going to give a win to them then.So, are you going to wait until January, March, maybe a new Administration — either Trump’s second or Biden’s first — to resolve this? I don’t know how companies can survive until March because their cupboards are bare now.

“That is why I’m really passionate about trying to get this deal done now, rather than buying the argument that, ‘We’ll just take care of it after the political dust settles.’ You’re going to have political chaos on November 4th, and I just don’t see the sides coming together at that point in time.”

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.