Root for the Problem Solvers in Washington

Wouldn’t it be great if more of our leaders in Washington, D.C., got to know each other across party lines to search for more agreement?

Well, it’s actually happening in a small yet significant way.

Introducing the “Problem Solvers,” about 80 members of Congress — many of them newbies — who have been meeting, building trust and negotiating their first package of bipartisan bills.

The effort deserves encouragement. It’s what citizens always say they want in Washington but rarely seem to get.

Moreover, half of Wisconsin’s House delegation has joined: U.S. Reps. Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood; Mark Pocan, D-Madison; Sean Duffy, R-Weston; and Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac.

They haven’t tackled the big or controversial issues such as immigration, entitlement reform, the tax code or farm policy. But they have found agreement on nine sensible bills to improve how government operates.

President Barack Obama, top lawmakers and the rest of Wisconsin’s delegation should back the package. Then the group can build from there, seeking more solutions through civility.

The group’s initial ideas range from cutting off Congress’ pay if it doesn’t get a budget done on time to partnering with private companies to make government buildings more energy efficient.

It might sound like small stuff, but it’s a start. And why hasn’t more of this been accomplished before now?

Washington’s political establishment

may roll its eyes at the effort and dismiss the Problem Solvers as naive. But the powers that be aren’t getting the job done. And Congress is increasingly polarized, manufacturing crises and positioning for the next election rather than trying to do what’s right for America and future generations.

The Problem Solvers were recruited by a group called No Labels, which is led by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Republican who failed to win his party’s presidential nomination last year. No Labels wants to promote “a new politics of problem solving” in a Washington awash in special interest money and partisan games.

Wisconsin so far has one of the largest contingents of Problem Solvers, with members dining together, comparing priorities and searching for common ground.

Trying to do what’s right doesn’t seem to get as much attention as doing things wrong. So credit Ribble, Pocan, Duffy and Petri for trying, and urge more leaders from Wisconsin to join. The future of our nation just might depend on this kind of effort and success.


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