How Bipartisan Legislation Can Bring a Divided Nation Together

Rep. Derek Kilmer and Rep. Fred Upton discuss the impact bipartisan legislation can have on making progress and resolving issues across a divided nation.

Air Date: May 19, 2022

Moderator: Jack Howard, Senior Vice President for Strategic Advocacy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Featured Guests: Rep. Derek Kilmer, U.S. Representative, Washington’s 6th Congressional District, Rep. Fred Upton, U.S. Representative, Michigan’s 6th Congressional District

According to an NBC poll, 70% of Americans think the country is incapable of solving big problems anymore because we are so divided. While this split is prevalent in politics, some bipartisan leaders are still willing to work together to resolve the issues at large.

In a new installment of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s "Common Grounds” series, Derek Kilmer, a Representative for Washington’s 6th Congressional District, and Fred Upton a Representative for Michigan’s 6th Congressional District, were joined by Jack Howard, the Senior Vice President for Strategic Advocacy at U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to discuss ways to solve the nation's most pressing challenges.

True Bipartisanship in Congress Is the Way Forward

In discussing the state of bipartisanship in Congress, the Representatives shared their perspectives of how both Democrats and Republicans are working together on the inside.

“Whether we're talking about the private sector or we're talking about Congress, we've got some really complicated issues to deal with these days,” Kilmer said. “We're talking about recovering from the pandemic; we're dealing with inflation; we're competing with China and the rest of the world.”

Kilmer said he believes that, as a whole, success comes when everybody can work together towards a common goal, rather than fighting one another.

“The seas are really rocky,” Kilmer said. “I'm a believer that the boat moves best when all of our oars are in the water rowing in the same direction. One of the challenges we face in Congress is it's really hard to navigate rocky seas when 45% of the oars are rowing in one direction, and 45% are rowing in the other direction … And about 10% of the oars are out of the water with people actively beating everyone else on the boat over the heads.”

While Upton noted that there are “great ideas on both sides,” he believes the demands for votes from hardcore fringes are negatively impacting Congress and the nation.

“The system is breaking down,” Upton said. “I think Republicans are going to flip the House next year … but I think it will be a narrow margin. And it's only groups like the Problem Solvers [Caucus] and Blue Dog [Coalition]… that actually get things done.”

Congress Must Build Working Bipartisan Relationships Through Committees

Kilmer cited a recent NBC battleground poll that asked, “on a scale of zero to 100, with zero being no conflict and 100 being civil war, where do you rank the United States right now?” The mean score of the poll was 70 — the highest on record.

“I think that's concerning for everybody; that's concerning for our communities,” Kilmer said.

To resolve problems and address the divide between the country, new committees, such as the Select Committee of the Modernization of Congress, which comprises six Democrats and six Republicans, have been created to move the nation forward.

“The rule that established our committee requires a supermajority vote to make any recommendations,” Kilmer said. “If you want things to work differently, you just have to do things differently.”

Despite Divisions, There Is Still Optimism for the Future of the Nation

Looking to the future, Upton discussed ways the nation can progress, depending on whether there is an effort to collaborate and build relationships.

“The only way you're going to get things done is if you have people willing to talk to each other, to build those relationships,” Upton said. “There's a huge agenda that has to be filled, whether it's the debt ceiling or the fiscal crisis, obviously inflation — all these things.”

Upton noted that a “record of accomplishment” will be crucial leading up to the 2024 election.

“That's the only way that that ship is going to sail,” Upton said. “It's only going to get to port if you have Republicans or Democrats willing to leave their political labels in the end zone and really work together to complete that pass or do the blocking and tackling to get things done.”