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Partisan conflict isn’t the whole story

Dedicated lawmakers can collaborate in a divided Washington

A sampling of our nation’s newspapers and television newscasts might lead the casual observer to conclude that harsh partisan rhetoric and deadlock are all that is happening in Congress. It is certainly true that with an impeachment inquiry underway much of the focus of reporters and commentators is on the bitter disagreements related to that process. Additionally, long-term disagreements between our political parties regarding certain other issues generate a significant number of news stories that center on very major divisions of opinion.

Fortunately, however, harsh disputes on some matters aren’t preventing some important work from being accomplished in Congress. This is possible because a significant number of lawmakers set aside their areas of disagreement and make the effort to work collaboratively to achieve bipartisan solutions to some important problems.

Both of Iowa’s Republican U.S. senators — Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst — are superb examples of legislators who frequently partner with Democratic colleagues to hammer out policy solutions that can command support in both political parties.

A good example is a bill just introduced by Grassley and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island. It seeks to address a growing problem regarding synthetic variations of performance enhancing drugs that are being marketed as dietary supplements to get around regulatory rules and law enforcement efforts. These drugs are called selective androgen receptor modulators or more briefly SARMs. They mimic the effects of controlled substances and their proliferation can potentially contribute to the nation’s substance abuse woes.

The two senators are working together to build support for their SARMs Control Act of 2019. Essentially, it closes the loopholes that have allowed these synthetic drugs to escape effective regulation.

“By placing SARMs on the same schedule as other anabolic steroids, we’re ensuring a safer and more transparent marketplace. Most of these products are being sold as dietary supplements when they actually work like other steroids. This should not be the case. SARMs need to go through the proper channel to guarantee safety and efficacy. Consumers deserve to know any risks associated with these substances, and the correct scheduling coupled with further DEA oversight will ensure that,” Grassley said.

This legislation makes sense. The key point here, however, is what the collaboration between Grassley and Whitehouse illustrates. A Republican and a Democrat who have profound policy differences can be effective partners if they make an effort to look beyond their disagreements and achieve common purpose on other matters. That type of partnering was once quite common in Congress. Unfortunately, the partisan divide today has become extraordinarily bitter. That has made lawmakers less willing to reach across the aisle to find areas where bipartisan agreements can occur. Doing so should be strongly encouraged.

The Messenger applauds Grassley and Whitehouse for being willing to find areas of common purpose. We hope their collaboration on this bill will set an example that encourages their colleagues in Congress to find more opportunities for bipartisan solutions to the nation’s problems. Our country is not well-served by the growth of partisan deadlock in Washington.