By Sens. Mark S. Kirk and Joe Manchin III Congress’ current approval rating is at a dismal 14 percent, and it’s no wonder why — governing by crisis and subjecting our constituents to partisan bickering is not what we were elected to do. Instead of offering viable solutions to the issues our nation faces, many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have merely dug in their heels and refused to budge. When the government shut down in 2013, Standard & Poor’s estimated it cost our economy $24 billion. Across the country federal workers, small businesses and our nation’s tourism industry struggled financially for more than two weeks because Congress refused to compromise.
The most basic function of serving the American people is to run the federal government, avoid crisis and find solutions to the issues dividing us. Whether Americans support or oppose Planned Parenthood, there is no solution in a government shutdown, and the threat is unacceptable to both of us.
When many in Washington turn away from a challenge, we remain determined to work across party lines. After the nation witnessed the horror of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, we formed a bipartisan team to pass common sense reforms to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. While Congress has allowed the Export-Import Bank’s authority to lapse, jeopardizing American manufacturing and trade, we stand committed to protecting the jobs of thousands of workers and will not give up on our bipartisan reform bill. Though many turn their eyes from the health care and employment problems plaguing veterans across the country, we started the Veterans Jobs Caucus and the Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus to address the unique challenges these brave men and women face.
We have co-sponsored and introduced more than 20 bills and amendments together because we understand the importance of working across the aisle when addressing some of our nation’s toughest issues. When the American people see Washington governed by partisan rhetoric and stand-offs, they reject that behavior. We believe in the potential of Congress to function through a bipartisan approach to governing.
While the majority of Republicans and Democrats gravitate toward partisan gridlock, we share the common goal of rolling up our sleeves and finding solutions. Our approach is not always popular in Washington — in fact, we are often criticized for failing to play party politics. But we didn’t run for Senate to serve party leaders, we ran to make Washington work and to serve the American people we represent. A government shutdown is not an acceptable way to govern.
Sens. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have both been serving in the Senate since 2010.