With nearly 50 days left before the 2018 midterm election, growing partisan rhetoric and D.C. gridlock have taken center stage. Political commentators seem to be stating daily that they’ve never seen the country this divided.
Recent primary elections in key swing states seem to underline this. In Florida, voters in both parties chose gubernatorial candidates who were further away from the middle than their challengers. And in Arizona, the Republican choice to replace outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake’s Senate seat won by moving further to the right.
Our nation aches for bipartisan leadership — the kind that can break the historic gridlock in Washington. For example, only 2 percent of bills introduced in Congress since the beginning of 2017 have actually become law. That’s on track to be the lowest amount in the last 45 years. It was then-Senate candidate Abraham Lincoln in the summer of 1858 who originally said “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” With so much hanging in the balance when it comes to the future success of our country, we couldn’t agree more.
Lincoln’s harmonious principle is what’s led to the growth of the national grassroots movement No Labels, which has since established the House Problem Solvers Caucus. This 48-member, evenly divided group of Republicans and Democrats works together to forge bipartisan cooperation on the policy issues Americans care about.
It’s the promise of bipartisanship and these types of policy issues that No Labels and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers intend to cover as we bring together several members of Congress and dozens of U.S. business leaders for a town hall style discussion at the Newseum’s Knight Studio in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 14.
Issues like how best to fund and fix our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, deciding what trade policies best work for both American workers and their employers, and passing economic laws that keeps U.S. farmers in the black. It’s these same issues that are at the core of what’s important to the equipment manufacturing industry, an industry critical to the overall success of our nation’s economy.
Equipment manufacturers support 1.3 million good-paying U.S. jobs, jobs that pay 58 percent above the national average, and our industry generates roughly $159 billion a year to the U.S. economy. While last year’s tax reform produced meaningful benefits to our industry, gridlock this year preventing meaningful progress on infrastructure, trade, and agricultural policy, is standing in the way of the creation of more good-paying jobs and more economic investment flowing into local communities across the United States.
Many industries and stakeholders have witnessed the same sort of traffic jam gridlock in Congress for decades. Bipartisan cooperation continues to be stifled due to rules that enable only a few members to hold the most power – standing in the way of solutions that’ll benefit the majority of Americans.
To break the gridlock, No Labels has issued four distinct goals to create a path forward. This includes encouraging and rewarding consensus driven governing, fostering passage of member initiatives solving constituent priorities, increasing accountability and transparency, and electing a Speaker that is representative of the entire body.
These rules create a direct challenge to the leaders and fringe groups in both parties who fight bipartisan cooperation at every turn. The kind of bipartisan cooperation that can lead to creating more good-paying jobs, better roads or bridges connecting our communities, and trade policies that create market opportunities instead of smothering them.
The future of our nation’s political bedrock could be what’s at stake in the 2018 election. Because a house divided surely cannot stand. And our nation’s problems have become too great for our elected officials to choose opposition over agreement any longer.
Nancy Jacobson is founder and CEO of No Labels, a movement for tens of millions of Americans who are no longer willing to put up with a government that doesn’t represent the interests of most Americans. Dennis Slater is president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, which has more than 1,000 members located across the United States and Canada.
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