Dozens of members of the House and Senate have announced their upcoming departure from Congress after the 2018 midterm elections. They leave behind frustrations, concerns and hopes for their respective deliberative bodies, things they hope will change even after they leave.
“Face the Nation” sat down with some of the most influential Republican lawmakers leaving Congress. They spoke of a need for more diversity, less partisanship and loyalty to principle over the president.
“When you look at the future of the Republican Party, I think that we would be foolish to not see that we’re heading into trouble,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a retiring Republican who represents a diverse Florida district. “Very few women are running on the Republican Party ticket for office. Far greater numbers of women are identifying themselves as being in the Democratic Party. Minorities that have always been, traditionally, a group that we should really be going after — I don’t see that we really have a recruiting program that’s active to get minorities involved in our party.”
Ros-Lehtinen said the GOP seems unable to adapt to an increasingly diverse electorate.
“When you look ahead, what’s our future going to be? Are we going to end up a marginalized party?” she asked. “I think that we need to look toward the future, and we need to have the policies that attract millennials, women and minorities. I don’t see that.”
Arizona’s Sen. Jeff Flake, who has issued scathing criticisms of Mr. Trump, shared similar fears about the party’s failure to be racially inclusive.
“If you look, every four years, every presidential election cycle, we are as a country 2 percent less white,” Flake said. “You know, voters of color. It’s changing that way. And I don’t think that we’ve made enough of an effort as Republicans to appeal across a broader electorate.”
Flake said President Trump and GOP positions on key issues have also caused young people to turn away from the party.
“Given some of the positions, and the behavior that the president has exhibited, I think it makes it very difficult for young people to identify with the Republican Party,” he said. “I think they’ve been walking away from the party in general. I think they’re at a dead sprint right now. And we’ve got to change that.”
The outgoing lawmakers also expressed concerns over the future of their deliberative bodies as a whole, questioning whether Congress still has the ability to solve the nation’s greatest problems with partisanship enveloping Capitol Hill. Flake pointed to a failure to come together on solutions that have broad support among the public as evidence of this political paralysis.
“In the Senate we have a 60-vote requirement for most legislation,” Flake said. “And we’ve had a hard time coming together. There are things that we should — on the gun issue, obviously the bump stocks, ‘no fly, no buy,’ those kind of things — there’s broad consensus in the country, certainly. And there should be, and I hope that we can move legislation like that. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to.”
Ros-Lehtinen placed some of that failure at the feet of the president.
“But on immigration, you look at the president’s position, and what he says on Monday may be different than what he says on Wednesday, and may be different on Friday,” she said. “So it’s very hard, I think — for leaders on DACA, on Dreamers, like Jeff Flake — to figure out a way forward. It’s schizophrenic what’s coming out of the White House in terms of policy on immigration and Dreamers.”
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