By U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y.
Far too often, people these days focus on our differences instead of what brings us together. And more than ever, America has felt like a nation divided, not states united. But, some of us are working hard to change that because we know we can do better than this.
Although one of us is a Democrat from Illinois and one a Republican from New York, we both strongly believe that loyalty to our country should come before that to our party. Our hardworking constituents elected us not to point fingers, but to lead. Not to cause problems, but to find common-sense solutions to the big issues of the day.
That is why both of us joined the bipartisan group called “No Labels” and have been named Congressional Problem Solvers. We represent a diverse range of viewpoints and beliefs, but are united in our desire to put partisanship aside and find ways to work together.
The recent government shutdown was a product of ongoing political games that both parties have played, where there was too much focus on political winners and losers and not enough on what’s best for our constituents. This has created persistent gridlock in Congress and governing from crisis to crisis. As a former newspaper reporter and Army officer, we were as frustrated by this as the people we represent.
So, while talking heads on cable news fueled this partisan standoff, we met daily with our No Labels colleagues. We sometimes had heated discussions, but every morning over coffee, we worked to find middle ground and do our part to resolve the crisis. We knew that although we wouldn’t agree on every proposal put forth, we had to keep a dialogue going, or we’d face something worse than a shutdown — economic disaster.
Perhaps most importantly, throughout those breakfast meetings, we built an increased level of trust and a respect for our shared commitment to working together that will serve us well in future debates in Congress. Extreme voices on both sides often get the most attention, but we No Labels Problem Solvers are living proof that reasonable lawmakers still exist, and are dedicated to breaking through the partisan gridlock for the good of our nation.
We both represent parts of the country where hardworking people have a simple expectation — that their elected officials get things done. That they put politics aside and do what it takes to make government work for the people — like it’s supposed to.
We’re committed to continuing to do our part to change the culture in Washington and hope that more of our colleagues join us in No Labels. Civility is an easy concept. People don’t expect us to agree on every issue, but they expect good governance and leaders who put the needs of our nation first.
U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson represents the 19th Congressional District of New York. U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos represents the 17th Congressional District of Illinois.Both are members of No Labels and Congressional Problem Solvers.
From the Nov. 6-12, 2013, issue