Sep 10, 2018

A Nation United: How Bipartisanship Is Still Alive

This week, we remember the tragedy that occurred 17 years ago on September 11. As we recall the shock and sadness, we also reflect on the unification and strength that emerged that day as Congress set aside party labels and partisan bickering to stand united on the Capitol steps.

What’s happened since then? As we experience this historically divisive political era, it’s important to remember that bipartisanship is possible and, despite the headlines, still alive. These vital efforts across the political aisle should be amplified to serve as a baseline for the future of governance.

Here are four examples that prove bipartisanship is still alive:

  1. Former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton and Former Republican New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean

As chairs of The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (better known as the 9/11 Commission), Rep. Hamilton and Gov. Kean were tasked with preparing a complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11 attacks and providing recommendations to guard against future terrorist attacks. The two—and their 10 commission colleagues—are a testament that it is possible to come together to find solutions to our nation’s most difficult and tragic issues.

  1. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

This year Congress has an opportunity to make modern history by passing all of its appropriations bills by the October 1 deadline—a task that hasn’t been accomplished since 1997. This hope for change is thanks in large part to the bipartisan efforts in the Senate by Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), as well as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). These leaders have been dedicated to ensuring that Congress pushes past partisan barriers to tackle one of its core responsibilities: fund the federal government.


  1. American Congressional Exchange Participants

Our nation needs a Congress that works. That’s why the Bipartisan Policy Center launched the American Congressional Exchange (ACE) program, which aims to build better relationships and bipartisanship in Congress away from the political stressors in Washington, D.C. ACE gives members of Congress the opportunity to visit colleagues of the opposite party in their districts with the goal of developing a shared experience to act, an avenue to build trust, and a foundation to find common ground.  And the program started producing results immediately.  After the very first exchange, when Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) visited with Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) in her Florida district—a trip that included a tour of a VA hospital and a meeting with veterans—the pair introduced the bipartisan BATTLE for Servicemembers Act, which better prepares our nation’s military heroes for the transition to civilian life.  The measure was later passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.


Other members of Congress who have participated in the program include Representatives Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Rodney Davis (R-Il), Salud Carbajal (D-CA) and Don Bacon (R-NE), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Andy Barr (R-KY), Susan Davis (D-CA) and Virginia Foxx (R-NC).  Representative Steve Womack (R- is visiting Derek Kilmer (D-WA) on September 15.


  1. Representatives Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Tom Reed (R-NY)

As co-chairs of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, Representatives Gottheimer and Reed are no strangers to establishing common ground on our nation’s toughest issues including immigration, infrastructure, health care, and the opioids crisis. The pair took their dedication to bipartisanship to a new level recently when Rep. Reed hosted Rep. Gottheimer in his district to participate in a joint townhall. The duo discussed how they are prioritizing working together to break through partisan gridlock and how to combat political extremism that’s crippling the nation. They also revealed how they plan to reform Congress to make it work for the American people. Listen to their joint episode on the Bipartisan Backstory podcast where they discuss how they’ve worked across the aisle for America’s common good.

Is Congress Working for You?