Solving Washington’s problems

Wednesday January 16, 2013

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch has joined a growing movement to help end the partisan gridlock that has plagued Washington for far too long.

The Vermont Congressman is one of the 26 founding members of Problem Solvers, a new bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers that was created by No Labels, a growing citizens’ movement launched in December 2010 to change Washington attitudes and make Congress work.

As No Labels says on its website, Democrats and Republicans have organized themselves into warring clans that value defeating the other side over even the most basic acts of governing, like passing a budget on time or confirming competent people to staff our courts and the President’s Cabinet. There is common ground between the parties, but they refuse to even try to find it. In most negotiations, when the other side embraces your idea, it is called agreement. In Washington, it is called selling-out, or even treason.

The Problem Solvers will work from within Congress to reform its operations and advance legislation on practical policy issues that cut across party lines to address some of the nation’s pressing challenges, Welch said in a press release. The Congressman is advocating that the group focus on energy efficiency, infrastructure investments, and mortgage relief for middle class homeowners. The group will hold regular meetings to build bipartisan relationships, recruit new members and develop legislation and Congressional reforms.

"Vermonters have a tradition of practical and civil problem solving rather than ideological warfare," Welch said in a statement. "We know that working together is the only way to achieve durable solutions because doing so gives people confidence that we will get things more right than wrong and that we’ll be willing to make right what we do get wrong. We need that same attitude in Washington. We have to be willing to work across the aisle to make progress on the serious challenges facing our country."

That all sounds well and good, but it won’t be easy. The partisanship divide in Washington is so deeply entrenched and the bitterness between the warring parties so palatable that at this point it seems like it would take a minor miracle to bring the two sides together on even the most basic issues. And unfortunately the problems facing our nation -- the national debt, the sluggish economy, gun violence, energy independence and climate change, to name a few -- are quite vexing, to say the least.

However, while these are difficult challenges they are not insurmountable, provided our political leaders can put their own stubbornness and selfish interests aside to reach across the aisle and do what’s best for the country.

That sounds exactly like what Welch and the other Problem Solvers are trying to do. We wish them all the luck; they’re going to need it.


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