‘Our problems are not Democratic or Republican problems — they are American problems’

Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, a founder of the Bipartisan Working Group in the U.S. House of Representatives, talks about the necessity of bipartisanship in the 115th Congress


I will never forget attending my first hearings as a congressman in 2011. I could not fathom the amount of blame-shifting and finger-pointing that was occurring between both Republicans and Democrats. There was so much argument between the committee members that no one was even asking the witnesses questions.

This early experience in Congress was quick confirmation of what most Americans and I had already suspected: The political process is broken. Coming from a business background and as a Washington outsider, I needed to figure out a way to fulfill my promise to Ohio’s 16th District: Pass meaningful legislation that will improve the lives of the constituency I serve.

As a solutions-oriented man, I knew that the only way to accomplish anything in Congress was to work with my colleagues from the other side of the aisle. This is why I founded the Bipartisan Working Group with fellow freshman congressman and now governor-elect of Delaware, John Carney. We organized a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers who share the belief that fostering interparty collegiality could lead to legislative partnerships and tangible results. It would provide lawmakers with the opportunity to identify issues where bipartisan support existed, to pitch ideas and to find co-sponsors for legislative initiatives.

The Bipartisan Working Group meets once a week each week that Congress is in session. A typical meeting involves members discussing bills and ideas they are working on, the progress of legislation on the House floor and the issues that are facing Congress — all over coffee and donuts, which are things anyone can agree on regardless of political party.

Today, this group of lawmakers consists of more than 20 members of Congress, evenly divided between the two parties. It has proven to be a successful vehicle for bringing legislation to the floor and garnering support for bills from both sides of the aisle. One of the group’s most prominent priorities is the Fiscal State of the Nation Resolution, a resolution that would require Congress to receive recurring presentations on the country’s finances and fiscal state. By reaching out to members on the both sides of the aisle, the group has garnered 160 co-sponsors for the resolution. Additionally, its members have secured the passage of numerous bills in the House on a wide array of issues, and some of these bills have even been signed into law.

From my own experience, I have found the group to be exceedingly helpful. Through the efforts of the Bipartisan Working Group, several bills I have introduced this Congress have become law. One of my legislative initiatives the group had supported was included in the 21st Century Cures Act, which was recently signed into law by President Obama.

Founding the Bipartisan Working Group is one of my proudest achievements as a congressman. Our problems cannot be solved by one person and not even by one party because our problems are not Democratic or Republicans problems — they are American problems. We are all in this together, and because of that, it is imperative that we work together.

The divisiveness of this presidential campaign has revealed a significant divide in our country, and we cannot ignore that this division exists. If we are to move forward and to govern effectively, it is imperative that political leaders learn to reach across an aisle that at times seems to be a chasm instead. Changing this hyper-partisan climate in Washington will not happen overnight, and while that notion can be daunting and downright discouraging, a series of small steps eventually translates into meaningful progress. It is my hope that the Bipartisan Working Group can help contribute to that progress.

I look forward to continue working with Congressman Kilmer in the 115th Congress. The congressman has been a valued member of the Bipartisan Working Group, and I am honored to continue working with him as the group’s new Democratic co-chair. He has proven to be a valuable member of the group, and I am confident he will continue to impress both you and me in this new role. It is my hope that together, he and I will be able to expand upon the success of the Bipartisan Working Group as an effective agent of change in Washington and make Congress work better for all Americans.

Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, represents Ohio’s 16th Congressional District. He is the Republican co-chair of the Bipartisan Working Group.