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July 9, 2015   |   Michael Bennet

Bipartisanship, the Colorado Way

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Last month, Senator Cory Gardner and I teamed up for our first inaugural Colorado Wheat Tour on Colorado's Eastern Plains - a place Senator Gardner calls home. The tour was sponsored by the Colorado Association of Wheat Growers and Senator Gardner's hospitality gave us a great opportunity to meet with rural Coloradans. From the Country Steak-out in Fort Morgan to the Colorado Highland Wind Project in Fleming and the Anderson wheat farm in Haxtun, we had the chance to discuss a number of issues important to rural communities, including the Farm Bill, trade, and economic development.

While we didn't agree on every issue, the common theme we heard at each stop was how refreshing it is to see a Democrat and a Republican working together. The tour proved what people in Colorado already know, there is plenty of common ground for both parties to get things done. Compare that to Washington where the politics are notoriously divided and dysfunctional, and the last Congress was the least productive in history.

Our office is committed to fighting that dysfunction and finding ways to work with members of either party on behalf of Coloradans and behalf of Americans. In addition to the wheat tour, we joined Senator Gardner in Colorado Springs earlier this year to receive a briefing and report from Colorado experts with recommendations on steps that the federal government can take to better support wildfire mitigation efforts. Senator Gardner and I have since submitted the report to the Secretary of Agriculture and urged the Secretary to work with us on implementing the recommendations.

We also introduced a bill together this year to put pressure on Congress to avoid, or at least quickly end a government shutdown. In the event of a shutdown, our bill would require Senators to remain on the Senate floor all day every day, forcing them to open lines of communication and work together to get the government back in business.

Unfortunately, the politicians in Washington continue to deliver more partisanship, paralysis, and gridlock. It's one manufactured crisis after another.

For instance, the Export-Import Bank, which supported nearly $30 billion in U.S. exports and $815 million in Colorado exports since 2007, shut down last month because Congress didn't get its act together. Washington, which has earned a reputation as the "Land of Flickering Lights," watched as the lights went out on an agency that supports 164,000 jobs and actually brings money into the treasury coffers - more than $7 billion since 1992.

This month we are faced with another looming deadline. The Highway Trust Fund is expected to go bankrupt by the end of July. Cutting off federal funding to build and maintain our roads and bridges compromises safety, costs jobs, and leaves us behind the rest of the world that is building infrastructure to keep up with commerce in the 21st century.

And, as we approach the end of the fiscal year, talk of another federal government shutdown has emerged and the finger pointing has begun. Coloradans don't tolerate that type of political brinksmanship. Collaborating and finding solutions, regardless of ideology, is simply commonsense in our state. We will continue to work with anyone - Democrat or Republican - on meaningful policies that are right for middle class families. Congress can learn a little something from the people in our state, and it would be served well to follow Colorado's lead.

 


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