For 40 members of Congress, from both parties, unity is real

Jun 24, 2017
In the News

CNN: Op-Ed: For 40 members of Congress, from both parties, unity is real
By: Tom Reed and Josh Gottheimer

Many Americans may not believe it, but most public servants in Washington are here for the right reasons. Republican or Democrat, we all want to build a stronger country. None of us would run for office if we didn’t believe we could contribute to the greater good.

But that spirit is all too often shrouded in the vitriol that seems to worsen by the day in Washington. Members of both parties feel blindly compelled to attack the other party’s approach to nearly every problem. There is a constant political incentive to attack first and consider the consequences later; it is much safer to not reach a hand across the aisle.

Then tragedy strikes. A terrorist group launches an attack against innocent civilians. An angry psychopath terrorizes a college campus. A madman tries to assassinate one of our peers.

In the days that follow, our rhetoric changes. We note, as both Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi did, that “we are one House.”

We remind ourselves that Congress is a family. Families have disagreements—sometimes they bicker. But in trying moments, they come together. And that’s exactly what many in Washington have done since the shooting attack in Alexandria, Virginia.

Unfortunately, as the memory of each shock fades, the two sides quickly retreat into their respective corners and Washington returns to the status quo—at least until the next tragedy. But we want it to be different this time. We don’t want the spirit of solidarity on display in the aftermath of the shooting to fade back to the old routine.

When we talk about the need for unity, let’s really mean it. It’s what the American people want. It’s what the times demand.

Earlier this year, having recognized that we shared this sentiment with many our colleagues, we decided to form a Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus.

Comprised of 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats, our aim was to create a durable bloc that could champion ideas that would appeal to a much broader spectrum of the American people—even if those ideas were anathema to people on the fringes of our parties.

We are united in the idea that there are common-sense solutions to many of the country’s toughest challenges—but partisanship keeps those solutions from making their way into law. We believe that’s bad for America.

The Problem Solvers Caucus is more than just a bipartisan coffee club. We recently adopted a rule that if 75 percent of our bloc and a majority of members in both parties support a position, we will stand behind it. And we as co-chairs of this group have pledged not to engage in campaigns against other members of the caucus.

Already, our commitment to bipartisanship has had an effect. When the government came close to shutting down in April, we issued a statement demanding that poison-pill amendments to the budget be set aside and those considering whether to press the issue chose not to.

We’ve met with both Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi to offer our help bridging the partisan divide. And we’re working hard to craft a bipartisan plan on tax reform and infrastructure and to avoid another debt ceiling debacle later this summer.

Members of our caucus won’t agree on everything –in fact, they may not agree on most things. But we owe it to ourselves and to the American people to find bipartisan agreement wherever possible. And we should always strive to treat one another with respect and civility.

A recent Harvard/Harris poll found that 89% of Americans want their representatives to reach across the aisle.

The Problem Solvers Caucus intends to champion that approach and we invite our colleagues to join us in that mission.

After all, American democracy is premised on the idea that people with different ideas can work together toward a common solution. Washington shouldn’t have to rely on tragedy to be reminded of that.

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