Curbelo Joins Axios’s Mike Allen to Talk Bipartisanship, Being a Millennial Voice in Congress
Earlier today, Representative Carlos Curbelo (FL-26) joined Axios and Mike Allen to discuss the need for bipartisanship in Washington.
Consistently ranked as one of the most bipartisan Members of Congress, Curbelo discussed how he sees bipartisanship as a means to achieving better and more lasting policy, as well as how personal discipline and flipping the script on risk-taking drives him to continue working across the aisle. Curbelo also discussed his hopes for immigration and tax reform before the end of this year, what younger Members of Congress and other millennial Americans can do to lead the much-needed political renaissance, and his take of legislating in the Trump era.
Curbelo: “Well, bipartisanship is not an end, its a means to achieving good, lasting policy.
“So, I’m part of the Problem Solvers Caucus and, you’ll have Josh Gottheimer here in a few minutes, and we work very closely together, but this dialogue that we are having is wonderful – and it’s important because you can’t have good results without good relationships and sober conversations – but that’s not the end.
“The end is to have good policy and that’s why we are hoping to play a role in an immigration compromise. Obviously, there has to be a spending compromise that’ll happen at the leadership level. Tax reform, there may be room and should be room for bipartisanship there.
“So, the idea is that, and I think our framers obviously given the way they developed the Constitution, the idea is for people to come together and have rigorous debate and the settle on something where they can all agree, knowing that not everyone is going to get everything they want.
“So, I think that once we have a couple of major bipartisan wins, Congress can be conditioned into this kind of behavior and we can kind of crowd out the forces that always try to prevent that type of compromise – either for political gain or financial gain.”
Allen: “We were talking about two factors that are most important in working across the aisle. I thought these were very fascinating. Congressman you said your two factors were first – you said personal discipline.”
Curbelo: “Yeah, you have to really fight the instinct to fall into the roles. Everyone knows what the roles are here, right. If you’re Republican, you have to kind of ignore an issue like climate change. Now, I don’t do that. Number one because I understand the science. Number two because I represent a district where most people live near sea-level and near the sea. So, it’s a local issue for us. But that’s the key... It’s easy, it’s expected of you, to fall into these buckets, into these roles, into these silos. And you really have to fight that, and on every issue say ‘Well what’s the right thing to do? What makes sense?’ So yes, it requires discipline in that sense where you have to fight the inertia that is so strong in our politics.”
Allen: “And Congressman, your second one, you have a counterintuitive take on risk-taking.”
Curbelo: “Yeah, so a lot of people, especially I think people who cover politics view bipartisan conduct or compromise as something that’s done by those that are seeking political cover or who are trying to play it safe. It is the opposite in most cases today in our country. Partisanship is what’s expected of you, it’s what’s safe, it’s what Republicans and Democrats do. Republican Members of Congress support the Republican President. Democratic Members of Congress oppose the Republican President. That’s what you’re expected to do.
“So, I think to try to break that actually takes more effort. And I don’t want to say – people use the word courage – I don’t think anything we do here on the Hill is courageous. People who are out fighting for our country – they’re courageous. But it certainly takes effort. It takes introspection and self-reflection to break those habits and say, ‘No I’m actually going to work with someone who I’m told I’m not supposed to work with because it’s the right thing to do and because I think we can come up with a good idea.’”
Curbelo: “I think there are some issues that just cry out for obvious solutions. We’ve been debating immigration in this country – the first DREAM act was filed in 2001 and we’re still talking about DREAMers in 2017 having done nothing; broader immigration reform was introduced by President Bush in ’05 and ’06 – but nothing has happened. And the solutions, at least to me, are fairly obvious. One of the thing that I’m optimistic about in this Congress, especially before the end of the year, is that we may have the first, meaningful, significant immigration compromise since the NACARA legislation in 1998.”
Axios’s Mike Allen: “So, this would be extending DACA protections – the DREAMER fix. Speaker Ryan said that will be part of the budget bill at the end of the year. Is that what you’re –”
Curbelo: “That’s our hope and obviously that would be accompanied by some reasonable border security measures. I think most Americans agree that we have a right and a duty and a responsibility to control our borders. There’s a lot of drug activity at the border, and most Americans want to stop that. Now, when you start talking about a wall, I think that’s where most people start to get divided. I don’t think anyone actually believes that we are going to build a 2000-mile wall, but we should do everything we can to have reasonable sensible border security.”
Curbelo: “And that’s why I think, in my view, tax reform is one of the biggest things we can do for this country because greater growth is going to make people feel better, it’s going to make people more confident, they’re going to be less prone to scapegoating fellow Americans or blaming trade deals for some of our challenges in this country, and people are just going to feel like they can thrive.”
Allen: “What are the chances of getting Democratic votes in the House for tax reform?”
Curbelo: “I think they’re pretty good. You know a lot of our Democratic colleagues are fixated on the 1%, the top 1%, which I understand we want a fair tax system. But I also understand that, and it’s a statistical fact, that we have one of the most progressive tax systems in the world. The wealthy pay a lot to fund all of our government programs. So, again, I don’t obsess with the 1% or the 2% or the 10%. I think we should have tax relief for all Americans. But, Republicans are going to put in a fourth bracket. There’s a good chance that it’s a 39.6% bracket that exists today; and I think that if we do that, that’s going to help a lot of our Democratic colleagues consider supporting a tax reform package that lowers the tax burden on at least most Americans and leads to greater growth.”
Representative Carlos Curbelo: “We bring a different perspective. I think we are a little more sober about politics. I find that people in my generation – in both parties – are less into some of the role-playing that I think many in Washington have become accustomed to. So, I tell young people all the time, especially people younger than me, that I really think it’s going to take the new generations in the United States in order to have the political renaissance that I think that we sorely, desperately need in this country to bring a more sober, thoughtful consolatory approach to politics.”
Curbelo: “I think millennials have to stop waiting our turn and we have to start making demands of our leaders in the House on both sides… We need to tell people ‘We want to do this differently, we want to help restore the trust and confidence in this government.’ We want people in our generation who, by the way, don’t care for the government at all – ask any millennial if they think that Social Security or Medicare is going to be around for them and they’ll laugh – they just don’t trust our institutions.
“We want to make our generation believe and in order to do that we need to change how this government works or how it doesn’t work. So, that’s the approach that I bring to this work and I encourage all millennials, don’t sit back and complain. It’s easy to tweet or send out a message over social media and go back to whatever you were doing. Get involved, vote, but also communicate directly with your representatives and let them know that you want things to change for the better.”
Curbelo: “I tell people, ‘I’m not obsessed with the President.’ There are people, both those that are for him and those that are against him, that are obsessed with him. Their day revolves around what the President says and does. I just can’t do that. I don’t think that’s healthy about anyone. By the way, I have a wife and kids and I think about them all day, but my whole day doesn’t revolve around them either. That’s just not healthy.
“I don’t let myself be defined by this president just like I didn’t let myself be defined by the last president. Going back to referring, people ask me all the time, ‘How do you deal with Donald Trump?’ and I say, ‘The same way I dealt with Barack Obama. When I agree with them, I’m supportive and I’ll get behind their ideas, but when I think their ideas are bad, then I’ll oppose them.’
“And I think that’s what every Member of Congress should do. This is not about if they’re from my party I have to agree every time or if they’re not I have to oppose them every time. This is about institutions and the balance of power. I think that’s our constitutional duty – to work with the Executive when we think they are working on something worthwhile and to oppose them when they are not.”Video of the full exchange is available here.