Politics abhors a vacuum. Washington, DC’s gridlock is providing space for new leaders who are seizing initiatives from party and institutional leadership and proposing compromise that can endanger an incumbent with their base.
In gun control and immigration reform – two of the biggest issues Congress is currently dealing with – a half dozen or so senators, most of whom are not in formal leadership positions, and some who are in their first terms, are leading the effort to develop bipartisan solutions.
First-term Democrat Joe Manchin (W.VA) (elected 2010) and Republican Patrick Toomey (PA) (2010) are now giving gun registration new momentum with a compromise that is less than what third-ranking Democratic member Charles Schumer (NY) has proposed and President Obama has endorsed, but has somewhat better chance of picking up red state Democrats and moderate Republicans.
Although there are some party wheel houses like Schumer, Dick Durbin (D-IL), John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) directing the Gang of Eight immigration compromise legislation, the most interesting members whose support will be necessary to bring along Republican conservatives and Democratic liberals are Marco Rubio (R-FL) (2010), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) (2012) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) (2010).
It’s still early to announce if this trend will break the stalemate and if it will be harmful or helpful for a career. But, it does appear gridlock and the public’s hunger for solutions has produced some leaders to break ranks.