End the partisan gridlock on energy

Partisanship is nothing new in Washington — what is new, however, is a disturbing development. 

Crippling hyper-partisanship is preventing us from doing even the most basic work expected of us by the people who elected us. When I was first elected to Congress in 1994, if members of both parties agreed on six of 10 things, then you did those six you agreed on. In today’s Washington, if you agree on six of 10 things, you do none of them — no action unless you agree on all 10.

No matter who was in charge in the House or the Senate or the White House, there were must-pass, must-sign pieces of legislation that Democrats and Republicans would work together on. No matter our differences or the party in charge, it would have been unthinkable not to pass a transportation bill or a farm bill. Now the once unthinkable is the new and unfortunate reality in Washington.

Raising the debt ceiling and not defaulting on our debts was once considered pro forma. Now it is a fight to muster the votes to do even that. Everything, no matter how essential or how basic, is seen as another front in an ideologically driven partisan political war.

It doesn’t have to be this way: Not every issue has to be held hostage to partisanship. Quite frankly, some issues are simply too important to be treated as just another political football. Energy is certainly one of them.

I know first-hand that many in Washington would rather avoid difficult issues. It’s human nature. But simply avoiding issues won’t make them go away. As Republicans have learned — the hard way — when it comes to issues like guns, immigration and gay marriage, simply hoping it will go away won’t make it so. Eventually, our elected officials are forced to deal with issues, no matter how thorny or complicated they may be.

Energy is one of those issues that cannot and should not be avoided. Few issues affect our world and our daily lives more; energy policy is inextricably linked with jobs, the economy and the environment. 

There is common ground that exists — energy doesn’t have to be a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. You shouldn’t have to choose between being on Team Al Gore or Team Drill, Baby, Drill. There is a wide range of responsible energy solutions, common-sense solutions, that don’t require landing in either of these extreme positions. There is wide support in both parties and among voters of all ideological stripes for an all-of-the-above approach to energy that includes traditional domestic sources as well as renewable energy sources. A true all-of-the-above approach to responsible energy solutions should treat all energy sources, including renewables, the same. 

Polling shows that such an approach would resonate with the American electorate; indeed, 75 percent of voters agree that we should remove unnecessary barriers to domestic energy production and implement an all-of-the-above approach that includes traditional resources, like oil and natural gas, as well as renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power.

There are also leaders on both sides of the aisle in Washington who are willing to work together on energy solutions. My good friend Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has always been a leader for pragmatism in the House, and recently Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) and Republican Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) introduced energy efficiency legislation in the Senate. It is the type of smart, common-sense solution that deserves bipartisan support.

Too often we wait for the very last minute or a crisis before we take action. I fear that some will greet the recent news of additional oil and gas reserves in the U.S. as an excuse to take their foot off the pedal, to delay looking for the energy of the future. As John F. Kennedy once said, “The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining.” I agree.

We know we will have to deal with energy policy; we know we can find common ground; we know there are solutions that enjoy wide, bipartisan support; and we know there are leaders in both chambers and in both parties that are willing to work. So what is stopping us? It is time to break the gridlock on energy and begin to restore the American people’s faith in their elected representatives’ ability to do their jobs.

LaTourette represented Ohio’s 19th congressional district and then its 14th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995-2013. He did not seek reelection in 2012.