I packed up my Washington, D.C., office this week with mixed emotions — pride in the work I accomplished to support Utah’s hard-working families on issues of jobs, health and safety, but frustrated by what didn’t get done. Nothing captures it quite like the failure to date to deliver much-needed emergency relief due to the ongoing public health crisis from the coronavirus.
We see this catastrophe happening in Utah and around the country. People are dying. People are sick. People, even if they aren’t personally affected by the virus, are hurting economically. Small businesses are on the brink of failure and many have already failed. It is time for each and every one of us to step forward and to do our part, and it is long past time for Congress to put the partisanship and the politics aside and do their job — get it done and show results. People talk about what they stand for; Democrats have passed bills, Republicans have passed bills, but a bill that does not pass the House and the Senate and get signed by the president means nothing to a struggling business or a struggling family.
Washington is so broken that even this 11-month health crisis can’t bring us together. Congress is dysfunctional. People here hardly even talk to each other anymore. Here we are at the last minute — actually, months past the last minute — and people are finally starting to say, “let’s negotiate, let’s get a deal.” Shame on Democrats, shame on Republicans, shame on everybody in Congress who put partisanship and politics ahead of getting a deal done.
The partisan divide has taken a toll on public confidence in government’s ability to meet the challenges we were elected to solve. A recent Pew survey shows that Americans recognize their distrust of the federal government and each other is a problem that gets in the way of solving tough issues. A new type of polarization is gripping the country. As one researcher noted, “This level of political divisiveness on both sides creates a feedback loop of hatred and leaves the U.S. open to manipulation by foreign powers that wish to further these internal rifts.”
I’ve tried to counter that in my public service by walking a centrist path, where I can listen to and hear from all sides and find common ground. If that often puts me at odds with Democrats, so be it. There’s a debate within the Democratic Party today, with many people who believe that we need to move further to the left and be equally divisive on the left to match the divisiveness on the right. I believe it’s important to elect people willing to work across the aisle — people like me, who build bridges rather than fan the flames. I’ve seen this work, whether it’s working with Republicans to counter the alarming rise in the rate of suicide and promoting a national three-digit suicide lifeline, or traveling to our southern border to get agreement for emergency food, housing and medical aid for refugees fleeing violence and danger in their home countries. Once you learn that people in both parties agree on both humanitarian treatment and a secure border, efforts can focus on ironing out the details.
I’m honored to have served Utahns in Congress and to have carried many of their good ideas across the finish line including four bills expected to be signed into law, and a bill adopted by the SEC as a regulation. I have built relationships with Republicans and Democrats that led to success on clean air, stopping child trafficking, preventing suicide and recovering investment savings for hard-working seniors cheated by fraudsters. My wish this holiday season is for those who serve next year in Congress to be less partisan and more like Utahns who work together, roll up their sleeves and solve problems for the good of everyone.
Rep. Ben McAdams represents Utah’s 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.