AU Legislation and Policy Brief Holds Inaugural Bipartisan Symposium

April 17, 2019

Political Commentator and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus.
Political Commentator and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus.

On Friday, April 12, the American University Legislation and Policy Brief presented its inaugural bipartisan symposium, “What’s Working in the 116th Congress.”

The symposium, held inside American University Washington College of Law’s Stephen S. Weinstein Courtroom, highlighted specific key issues in Congress and provided a platform for bipartisanship discussion and compromise. Political Commentator and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, Sine Institute of Policy and Politics 2019 Spring Fellow, offered opening remarks at the event.

AUWCL Dean Camille Nelson welcomed attendees, calling the symposium “an example of our students’ exemplary professionalism and leadership, and [their] engagement with many of the country’s most pressing issues.”

“I’m a believer in the benefits of divided government,” Marcus said. “I think Washington works best, to the extent that it works at all, at times when not all power is concentrated in the hands of a single party – whether that’s Democrats or Republicans.”

Ruth Marcus speaking at the symposium.
Ruth Marcus addresses symposium attendees.

The symposium’s first panel discussion, “Tackling Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Plus Extenders,” moderated by Professor Nancy Abramowitz, included panelists Tony Coughlan, managing director at KPMG and former senior tax counsel to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT); Nicole Elliott, partner at Holland & Knight, LLP and former senior adviser to IRS Commissioner Koskinen; Amy K. Matsui, director of income security and senior counsel, and Adjunct Professor Adam Katz ‘86, partner at PwC.

DeLisa Lay Ragsdale, chief investigative counsel for Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-IA); Karen E. Christian, partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP and former general counsel on the House Energy & Commerce Committee; Lauren Dudley ’12/LL.M. ’13, counsel to House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman DeFazio (D-OR); and Paul Nagle, director of international regulatory affairs at Alibaba Group; all spoke on the symposium’s second panel, “Beyond Politics: Oversight & Investigations by Congress,” moderated by Professor Jeffrey Lubbers.

“The kinds of hard choices and political risks that are required for something as difficult as, say, entitlement reform…requires lawmakers of both parties to hold hands and jump off political cliffs together. Second, the wisdom of the framers endures. We need checks and balances; the institutional interests of the legislative branch to temper the executive,” Marcus said, adding that the thing working best right now in the 116th Congress so far “is the sheer fact of divided government, and with it a House that is empowered and willing to exercise its oversight responsibilities.”

 “Tackling Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Plus Extenders" panel
“Tackling Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Plus Extenders" panel discussion.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) delivered the closing keynote address, followed by a cocktail reception sponsored by the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, which provided attending alumni, students, professors, and the symposium’s panelists a bipartisan networking opportunity.

“I’m delighted by the revival of the AU Legislation and Policy Brief and believe the Brief can play a positive role in advancing meaningful bipartisan legislative initiatives,” Raskin said in a statement. “Parties undoubtedly play a positive political role in articulating different policy programs and educating the electorate, but once in office, all of us elected officials must try to remember that, as Thomas Jefferson put it, we are all Republicans and we are all Federalists. This is an impressive debut of the new Legislation and Policy Brief.”