Maybe they’ll call it the “Fitzpatrick Caucus?”
After two decades of increased political polarization, some political observers see an opportunity for a surge in bipartisanship. One reason is the all-but-certain departure of President Trump. The other is the narrow majorities the two parties are likely to have in the next session of Congress.
And if there is a bipartisan moment approaching, Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick will be a part of it.
Before Election Day, Democrats enjoyed a 35-member advantage in their House majority, and the GOP held 53 of the 100 Senate seats — enough to hold a majority even on contentious votes like Supreme Court nominations.
As the post-election smoke clears, the scene is very different. Instead of increasing that number as many analysts predicted, it shrank to 17, according to the latest tally from the Cook Political Report, and may get even smaller when the final recount is done.
And while the final numbers for the U.S. Senate won’t be in until after two runoff elections in Georgia, neither party will have more than a 2-member majority. According to Cook, “it’s Republicans here who likely have the upper hand.”
With large majorities, more polarized caucuses within the parties can have an oversized influence — such as the Freedom Caucus within the GOP or the “Justice Democrats” represented by New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
“There are 20, 30, 40 members of the house and, and at least a half dozen senators whose influence will skyrocket with a narrowing of congressional majorities,” said Dan Diller, Director of Policy with the Lugar Center in Washington D.C.
“That’s not necessarily unique to this period. It’s just a kind of a mathematical fact, you know, that as the House or Senate majorities narrow, the folks in the center become more influential.”
Fitzpatrick is chief among those who will attract attention, and Diller knows it.
The Lugar Center ranked Fitzpatrick as the most bipartisan lawmaker in the most recent Congress. Not only that, the Bucks County Republican earned the highest score ever delivered by the Lugar Center, which tracks and rates bipartisan cooperation on the Hill.
All of this comes as Fitzpatrick has solidified his hold on his district.
For most of this year as polling predicted a big win for Joe Biden in Pennsylvania, Democrats salivated at the opportunity of throwing out Fitzpatrick in a “blue wave.”
Instead, Biden narrowly won the commonwealth, while Fitzpatrick increased his margin of victory — substantially — from 2018. That year, Fitzpatrick won a 51-48 split created by an 8,000-vote difference. This year, Fitzpatrick crushed Democrat challenger Christina Finello 58-41, this time with a 66,000-vote chasm.
“To the extent that the far left of the Democrat Party doesn’t prevail in yanking things apart, folks like Brian Fitzpatrick will play a more prominent role in getting things done,” said Charlie Gerow, a longtime Republican strategist.
Fitzpatrick’s Delaware Valley colleague, Democrat Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan, is hardly among the hard left in her party, either. Like Fitzpatrick, she has cultivated a bipartisan profile and is a member of the “Problem Solver’s Caucus,” a bipartisan group formed in the House in 2017 intended to form “a durable bloc that champions ideas that appeal to a broad spectrum of the American people.”
The Problem Solver’s Caucus currently boasts 50 members in the House and has a “small but growing chapter in the Senate,” according to the Washington Post. Fitzpatrick is listed as a co-chair on the caucus’s website.
“To join that group, you are taking some risks just in joining it, regardless of what you do in terms of policy — it is noticed within your party that you’re a member of that,” Diller said. “And there are some members of both parties who discourage people from joining the Problem Solvers Caucus. So, it’s a genuine commitment to do that.”
Houlahan coasted past Republican John Emmons 54-45 last week. However, unlike Fitzpatrick, her margin of victory shrank somewhat between 2018 and 2020 in the district covering almost all of Chester County and a part of Berks County.
At the end of the third quarter, she had more than $3 million cash on hand in her campaign account, putting her among the top 25 representatives in the House with the biggest cash stockpile.