What happened in the U.S. House of Representatives on June 21, 2017, reminds me of Shirley Povich’s classic lead paragraph in the Washington Post after game five of the 1956 World Series: “The million-to-one shot came in. Hell froze over. A month of Sundays hit the calendar.”
Povich was, of course, writing about one of the most improbable events in baseball history: Don Larsen’s perfect game for the New York Yankees against the fearsome Los Angeles Dodgers.
What happened on the House floor with H.R. 1873 didn’t receive nearly as much fanfare, but perhaps it should have. The Electric Reliability and Forest Protection Act, which is sponsored by Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader, received 300 votes—including those of 69 Democrats. In a hyper-partisan atmosphere where hardly anything passes except along acrimonious party line votes, H.R. 1873 is indeed a rare event— a throwback to the halcyon days of bipartisanship. It takes a lot of courage these days to reach your hand across the aisle. Rep. Schrader deserves a lot of credit for forging alliances that led to this strong vote.
H.R. 1873 is a commonsense bill to streamline the permitting process for utilities whose power lines cross federal land—a major issue for Oregon’s electric cooperatives. The legislation also will help prevent forest fires and improve the reliability of the electric grid. However, opponents claimed the bill was nothing more than an attempt to clear-cut our federal forest lands.
I am heartened that Democratic Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Peter DeFazio rejected this absurd argument and joined Schrader in supporting H.R. 1873. Oregon’s lone Republican congressman, Greg Walden, is a co-sponsor of the legislation and another champion for electric cooperative consumers. Oregon co-op leaders such as Central Electric CEO Dave Markham deserve credit for focusing Congress’ attention on the issue.
There will be more bitter debates and extreme partisanship on the House floor. The U.S. Congress will never be as perfect as Don Larsen’s brilliant gem on a crisp fall afternoon in 1956. But for one shining afternoon in the summer of 2017, it at least took the mound.