In a time of highly charged partisanship, the covid-19 pandemic has many members of Congress working across the aisle for the first time. But for Reps. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., and Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., it’s nothing new.
“For us, it’s something we do literally every day,” Gottheimer said during the American Boating Congress, which was held virtually Wednesday and continues today with a session titled “Bipartisanship in the Era of Uncertainty.”
Gottheimer and Reed are members of a group called the Problem Solvers Caucus. It comprises Republicans and 25 Democrats, including some who are considered very conservative and others who are very liberal, Gottheimer said. The common thread that unites them is that their desire to get things done outweighs their allegiance to strict party lines.
“Everything has to be so pure now,” Gottheimer said, meaning that if elected officials compromise, they are skewered publicly by groups on both sides.
In a discussion moderated by Nicole Vasilaros, vice president of legal affairs for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the congressmen said they have been working together on reopening states to commerce while maintaining safety for citizens.
It was a rare dialogue from both sides of the aisle that emphasized commerce and manufacturing can continue as long as safeguards and precautions outlined by the Centers for Disease Control are adhered to.
The members discussed the caucus’ priorities for the next stimulus package, which include ensuring state and local resources get to the local level, making testing for covid-19 more ubiquitous as states reopen, and reinforcing supply chains.
Infrastructure also is a high priority for the Problem Solvers Caucus, and both representatives said they they view this as a bipartisan issue, as they seek to push forward a comprehensive infrastructure package.
There will be some “distorted ripple effects” from the pandemic, Reed said, who echoed the idea that infrastructure has a good chance of receiving bipartisan support to help offset the effects of unemployment and the pandemic.
The caucus looks for 80 percent agreement on proposals, Gottheimer said, and an infrastructure package had already gained 75 percent support from members of both parties. The two joked that they don’t often agree, but they trust each other.
“We didn’t come here to play games,” Reed said. “We came here to get things done.”