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COLUMN: The key to getting things accomplished in Congress: bipartisan bills and bipartisan friendships

By Dave Brat

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HENRICO, August 26, 2017 | comments

The following op-ed appeared in the August 26, 2017 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Our politics in America are more divided than ever. Frustration levels are high and the dialogue we see on social media and other mediums has too often degraded into name-calling and personal attacks. Where ideological differences exist, it often seems civil discourse has disappeared.

To bridge political differences with other members of Congress, I have made developing personal relationships and introducing bipartisan legislation a priority. I wanted to outline a few bipartisan bills I am working on as well as the benefits of across-the-aisle friendships. I believe these two things are key to getting more done in Congress.


One area where bipartisanship in Congress has excelled is in working to advance more career and technical education opportunities for our young people.

In June, the House passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which cedes additional decision-making freedom to states to design their own career and technical education programs.

I witnessed the success of these programs when I worked with former Virginia state Sen. Walter Stosch and a group he founded called Grasp, a charitable college-access organization.

There is still more work to be done, and I look forward to finding additional ways, such as internships and apprenticeships, that can prepare our kids for success after they complete their K-12 education.

Both political parties agree our legal immigration system is outdated and bogged down. I believe our immigration laws should put the American worker first.

I’ve seen too many companies capitalize on loopholes in our immigration system to displace high-skilled American workers. This is why earlier this year I joined with Democrat Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. from New Jersey and fellow economics professor Rep. Ro Khanna from California, along with Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar, to introduce the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act.

Our bill overhauls these visa programs to protect workers and crack down on foreign outsourcing companies, which deprive qualified Americans of high-skill jobs and higher paychecks.

Another priority for me is examining the barriers to starting and building small businesses. I get an opportunity to do this as a member of the House Small Business Committee and chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access.

Earlier this year a Florida Democrat, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, and I worked to introduce two pieces of legislation. Both bills provide clarifying text to ensure small businesses have the resources they need to excel. Together we successfully included the text of one bill in larger legislation that passed the House in July.

And what could be more bipartisan than working on behalf of veterans, puppies, and government accountability? That is why I partnered with Rep. Dina Titus, a Democrat from Nevada, to introduce the PUPPERS Act, which would prohibit the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) from conducting medical research that causes significant pain or distress to dogs.

The bill has attracted significant support from both sides of the aisle with nearly 40 cosponsors, and a one-year funding moratorium of this research successfully passed the House unanimously in July.

In Virginia, tensions remain charged following the horrific events in Charlottesville. The headlines on fringe blog sites and the hate-filled comments coming from individuals hiding behind their keyboards are not representative of either political party.

Sadly, many individuals have tried to assign blame in an attempt to explain what happened in Charlottesville by finger-pointing at our neighbors who have different mainstream political viewpoints. These tactics do nothing to resolve our political differences and get things accomplished.

This is why I am committed to continuing to build respectful friendships with colleagues who I might disagree with politically. I am grateful for friendships with fellow committee members like Rep. John Yarmuth from Kentucky, who is ranking Democrat member of the House Budget Committee, as well as fellow Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, who serves as the ranking member of the House Education and Workforce Committee.

What people might not know is the entire Virginia congressional delegation meets monthly over lunch. We use this standing meeting as an opportunity to not just stay updated on the needs and opportunities for our commonwealth, but we also share about personal interests and updates on our families. There are absolutely some issues where my Democrat friends and I have to agree to disagree, but we do that civilly.

There are issues where Congress has an opportunity to unite and move our country forward and get things done. I think we can agree our tax code needs to be reformed. I hope we agree our budget should be balanced. And also, I believe we agree the average family can’t afford their health care premiums and skyrocketing deductibles. We all want more economic growth.

After being entrusted with teaching many of your children for nearly 20 years in our commonwealth as a college professor, I’m privileged to represent you. My background is in ethics and economics, and I am committed to putting those two together and continuing to build the trust of the people I serve by staying positive, keeping the promises I made when I ran for Congress, and passing legislation that translates into real benefits for Virginians.

Polarizing political issues will always get the most cable news coverage. However, I am hopeful when we sit around the dinner table or in the pew at church, we can find more opportunities for civil dialogue on policy issues where we agree.


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