Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat from New Jersey's 5th District, and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Pennsylvania's 1st District, are the co-chairs of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus in the US House of Representatives. The views expressed in this commentary are those of the authors. View more opinion on CNN.
(CNN)These days, all Americans seem to hear is that Washington, D.C., is irreversibly broken. The two parties are at constant loggerheads, whether it be about voting rights, immigration, or any number of other issues. Leaders of both parties perpetually accuse their counterparts of overreach. Money, social media, and power incentivize members of Congress to reject compromise even when reaching across the aisle serves the greater good.
Many Americans are left wondering what needs to be done to fix our nation's gridlocked politics. While some have chosen to tune out the debate, we would suggest that the majority of Americans want their elected officials to sit down and solve their problems.
Bipartisanship isn't always possible -- on some issues, the two parties are simply too at odds. But on issues of national concern such as Covid and infrastructure, there's no reason thoughtful leaders should not be able to shape compromises that both parties can support.
The business of American democracy is aligning people who don't agree on everything so they can make progress where they have common interests.
That's why the Problem Solvers Caucus, along with a bipartisan group of US Senators, created a two-party solution focused on building a strong, successful 21st century infrastructure network for America. The plan is backed by the White House and more than 20 leading business and labor groups, including the US Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers.
The framework focuses on physical infrastructure, which many Republicans and Democrats agree on funding with no strings attached.
This $1.2 trillion infrastructure package was created with hard work, in good faith and with many late-night Zoom calls. After talks with the White House and Senate Republicans broke down in early June, the Problem Solvers Caucus released "Building Bridges: A Bipartisan Physical Infrastructure Framework" to help jumpstart negotiations. From there emerged the bipartisan Senate-White House infrastructure framework.
Let's flashback to earlier this year: The White House introduced a plan that Republicans rejected out of hand, saying it went too far. Then, Senate Republicans offered an alternative that the President said did not go far enough. At that point, it was widely accepted that any bipartisan solution on the issue was dead. The left started rallying Democrats to go it alone, and the right called for abandoning attempts at bipartisanship altogether.
Meanwhile, a group of Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate worked behind closed doors on a broad bipartisan approach to infrastructure. We believe it meets the priorities of our country and satisfies the concerns of leaders across the political spectrum who agree, first, that the nation's infrastructure is in shambles, and second, that failure to invest cedes too much ground to our international competition, including China.
Our infrastructure deal will improve roads, bridges, highways, tunnels, public transit and rail networks to reduce traffic and delays. It will enhance our airports, waterways and ports to strengthen our competitive advantage in a global economy. It will provide greater access to high-speed broadband to make sure businesses can reach customers, students can learn online and Americans can connect to telehealth and job opportunities.
The framework also makes investments in clean energy, electric vehicles, and resiliency measures; a win-win for the economy and environment.
Both sides did not get everything they wanted, but the released infrastructure framework is a genuine showing of elected officials on both sides of the aisle coming together to help improve the lives of millions of Americans and make important investments to reshape the future of our nation.
The deal will not be as large as the White House originally suggested. It will be more robust than Senate Republicans proposed in their counteroffer. Individual members on both sides of the aisle, if they had a free hand to shape a bill exactly to their liking, might alter the details. But that's how our democracy is designed to work. Absent finding common ground, nothing passes, and the American people lose.
This deal could not have been reached without our concerted efforts to foster dialogue, civility and respect over many years. A few years back, a small group of us formed the Problem Solvers Caucus, which we co-chair today. Split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, we meet weekly to talk through issues, see where we can agree and build up the trust and mutual understanding that's the secret sauce to finding a bipartisan agreement. We do not think one party has a monopoly on good ideas.
This is not the first time our quiet bipartisan approach has worked. Late last year, when many presumed that Congress was too divided to pass a Covid-19 package, a similar group, also centered on the Problem Solvers in the House and our allies in the Senate, crafted the $908 billion Covid-19 package that brought much-needed relief.
Lo and behold, the impulse to work arm-in-arm -- our collective determination to reject the temptation to vilify and castigate our colleagues across the aisle -- resulted in something the nation so desperately wants: a bipartisan approach to big national problems. This is how democracy is supposed to work.
We cannot miss this historic opportunity to show the Americans that we can come together to deliver real results for the nation. It's time to bring this infrastructure framework to the finish line.