COLUMN, U.S. REP. DAVE REICHERT: Congress needs to sit down at the kitchen table

I’ve heard it everywhere I go lately. People are hurting and scared about the future. Some are talking about the future of their family – and some are talking about the future of our country. Whether you’re in Bellevue or Black Diamond or Eatonville, no one is immune from our stressed economy; maybe you know a neighbor who lost a job, or you’ve watched your retirement savings dwindle, or your child’s school is looking for ways to cut its budget. Sometimes it seems hopeless. We cannot forget to have hope in our future and to take each day or each task one step at a time. Not only for ourselves and our families today, but for our children tomorrow. And the best way to tackle a problem is together.

Too often we see just the opposite. Congress often unites in outrage, rather than uniting to find solutions for our constituents. After four months of a new session of Congress, most of the votes and bills debated put “politics as usual” ahead of problem-solving, and we are left with polarizing plans instead of compromise and real progress. Just as families sit down at the kitchen table together to map out how to make ends meet, the government should, too. Congress must “sit down at the kitchen table” to identify priorities and put forward responsible ideas to address the challenges of economic recovery.  

No one party has all of the answers, and we cannot have a “go it alone” approach to economic recovery. I believe that we get the economy back on track by opening new markets to trade, offering tax incentives that create jobs and advance important national priorities, including wise investments in infrastructure.  We must also offer assistance to families struggling with the rising costs of health care and energy and work to modernize an outdated regulatory system. But the best way to achieve these common-sense economic recovery priorities is to rise above political games and work with members from both parties and other regions to advance them.

For example, I helped introduce legislation (H.R. 1470) with Democrat Ron Kind of Wisconsin to make health care more affordable for small businesses, the engines of our economy.  I’m teaming up with Democrat Brian Higgins of New York to introduce a bill that rewards families for installing energy-efficient heating systems in their homes.  And I’ve worked with members of my House Ways and Means Committee to prevent taxes on unemployment benefits. These are just a few of the common-sense solutions that can help those suffering and allow our economy to recover.

It’s the responsibility of all members of Congress to hold the government accountable to American taxpayers.  While the bailouts and the stimulus bill were highly controversial, they are now law. As these laws are carried out, we have an obligation to combat waste, fraud and abuse and ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. 

There is no doubt that our road to recovery will be tough. But in order to recover, Congress must come together to find meaningful, common-sense solutions to the challenges before us, reflecting the values found at kitchen tables across our country. It’s my hope that as we continue our work this year, that we do so with the best interests of our country, our United States of America, in mind. Sometimes that word, united, is forgotten. The future of our children and grandchildren demand that we succeed. Congress especially must not forget to be united for those that we represent. That’s what we need for this country to forge ahead to recovery.

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert represents the Eighth Congressional District, which includes part of Renton.