There is a time for campaigning and a time for governing. As the 113th Congress prepares to convene, many monumental decisions lie before us — decisions that will affect generations of Americans in a profound way.
Yet, with the mixed results of last week’s elections, many are left asking, “Where do we go from here?”
It’s a fair question. President Barack Obama was re-elected to a second term. The Senate remains in Democratic control and the House in Republican control, with the ratio of Republicans to Democrats barely changed.
For as much as the nation seems fed up with the status quo, it voted to keep its elected government basically the same.
So did the people vote for more gridlock? Do we have a mandate for more of the same?
Of course not. The American people want solutions to the problems our country faces. They may disagree on exactly how to address the issues, but they want them addressed all the same.
If there is a mandate, it is for leaders from both parties to work together to avoid the fiscal cliff in the short term and solve the debt crisis for the long term. In each case, Americans want reasonable, responsible reforms that will help, not hurt, our economy.
Though the views of members of the House and Senate are as divergent as the people we represent, we bear the responsibility to work through our political differences and get things done. That’s our job.
Republicans aren’t going to abandon our core conservative values, just as I don’t expect Democrats to change their stripes either. However, we might not have to in order to achieve results.
There is common ground, and I am eager to work with the administration and the Senate to find it. My colleagues and I are ready to work with men and women of good faith from both parties, but we’re not going to play games like the White House and Senate have tried to the past two years. This country has serious problems, and I hope the president and the Senate are ready to work with us to find viable solutions.
One area where I believe common ground exists is tax reform. Any serious plan to address the $16 trillion debt must include meaningful reforms to entitlement programs. If some pro-growth tax reforms — broadening the tax base, lowering rates and closing loopholes — could help us reach an agreement to finally deal with entitlement spending and debt, it’s worth considering.
At the same time, it would be unwise for the president and Senate Democrats to insist on economically harmful small-business tax rate increases unlikely to pass Congress.
With election dust barely settled and no actual legislation on the table, it’s too early to speculate on specifics. But in broad terms, there is reason to be optimistic Congress can make progress on this issue.
Make no mistake — there are some areas where retreating from our principles is not an option. For the past two years the House has stood strong as the people’s last line of defense against an overreaching, overregulating and overspending government. That’s a role we’ll continue to play, and the president should expect that going forward.
But neither side got what it wanted out of last week’s elections. Republicans were denied our candidate’s bid for the White House, and Democrats were thwarted in their attempt to regain control of Congress. Yet the issues facing our country remain.
As elected leaders, we each must recommit ourselves to work together toward putting our country on a prosperous, sustainable path and restoring America’s promise as a land of opportunity. That’s our job, and the people have told us to get back to work.
Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., is a member of the Agriculture, Armed Services, and Education and the Workforce committees.