THE LOWELL SUN: In partisan Washington, Trahan sees room to work with GOP
As originally appearing in The Lowell Sun


U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan’s first year in Congress started with a government shutdown and ended with a vote to impeach the president.

Amid what the Westford Democrat described Monday as some “divisive waters you have to navigate,” Trahan said she’s still been able to find opportunities for bipartisanship on issues like trade, fighting the opioid crisis — and minor league baseball.

“Even in these times of division, we have to figure out a way on how we’re going to rebuild the muscle for working together again, and I do think that’s something that’s unique about even this class, because we had so many members of Congress who won in these tough red districts that there is a feeling of looking beyond 2021 and how we’re going to actually make Congress work together,” Trahan said at a New England Council roundtable.

Elected in 2018 to an open Congressional seat after coming out on top in a 10-way Democratic primary, Trahan said she’s found “you do have to be proactive and scrappy about finding where you can achieve common ground, and with whom.”

“I know I’ve had to prove to myself that Congress could actually have a future where reasonable Democrats are working with reasonable Republicans to get things done,” Trahan said.

Trahan said one of the first groups she joined as a new member of Congress was a bipartisan freshmen working group on addiction that meets weekly.

She said cities in her district, like Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill and Fitchburg, have been “incredibly hard hit with opioid overdose deaths.” In looking to address that issue, she said she’s “forged some relationships with some pretty unsuspecting colleagues” — including Republican Congressmen Hal Rogers of Kentucky, Buddy Carter of Georgia and Jack Bergman of Michigan — on issues like safe prescribing practices and medication-assisted treatment.

The recent passage of a U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade deal provides a lesson that’s applicable to efforts to move forward with an infrastructure bill, Trahan said. Last week, U.S. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal said he thinks it’s “doable” to pass an infrastructure bill this year.

Trahan said that at town hall meetings she would often field a version of the question, “Why the heck are you going to pass USMCA? You’re going to give him a win,” referring to the trade deal and President Donald Trump.

“That’s exactly the mentality that inhibits us from getting things done,” she said. “This is a win for the American people, and infrastructure is a win for the American people. We’re not going to consider whether it’s a Democratic win or a win for the Trump White House. This is about how are we going to do something that’s so desperately needed across the country and how are we going to put our stamp on it, how are we as a majority in the House going to make sure that we’re talking about decreasing carbon and making sure we’re investing in the right types of infrastructure and green infrastructure.”

Trahan said social media can create a perception that “there’s no civility, it’s just such a divide, and that there is no hope.” She compared behavior on social media to road rage, saying, “You don’t see people behaving like that in elevators, on the floor, in committee,” or when they otherwise come face-to-face.

“I think that’s an important distinction to make, that it’s still a place where there is a yearning, I think, to get things done and to figure out how we’re going to do that,” she said.

In “the heart of impeachment,” Trahan said, 106 Republicans and Democrats, herself included, signed a letter to Major League Baseball voicing concerns with a proposal to eliminate some minor league teams and remove others’ MLB affiliations. The Lowell Spinners, in Trahan’s district, is one of the teams that could be affected.

“If you go to a Lowell Spinners game, it’s probably because you can’t afford a ticket to go to Fenway Park, and for many families in that Merrimack Valley area, it is their only chance to see professional baseball, and turns out we have that in common with the entire state of Iowa, which their three teams will get wiped out and they don’t have a team anywhere near them,” Trahan said.

Trahan is among the lawmakers who started a Save Minor League Baseball Task Force. The issue is one she hadn’t anticipated when she arrived on Capitol Hill and was initially focused on tackling sewage overflow and contamination in waterways like the Merrimack River.

“I had no idea that I was branding myself as the sewage lady while in Washington, so when baseball came around, I was like, ‘Here’s my chance,’” she joked.

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