Unifying issues for a divided Congress? Try American infrastructure and energy

In the wake of a bruising and contentious midterm season—and with control of Congress now split between the parties — Americans on both sides of the political divide are wondering whether Washington can find anything to agree on in the year ahead. Our view? Sure, it can.

API and NABTU’s combined advocacy experiences demonstrate that when organizations inside the Beltway work together, there are always issues on which bipartisan consensus can be found and coalitions formed. We believe public infrastructure investment to deliver America’s energy is one of those issues.

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This was evident in the 2018 election, where we saw growing agreement that our country is in the midst of an energy revolution driven by American ingenuity.  Over the last ten years, highly skilled workers and technological innovations have helped make America the world’s No. 1 producer of natural gas and oil. This is a factor in driving down costs for consumers, creating more middle-class sustaining jobs, dramatically cutting our dependence on foreign energy sources, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions to 25 year lows.  

Our public infrastructure and energy policies should know no party and bring out the maverick in politicians on both sides of the aisle. Infrastructure and energy affect every single American every single day — they are simply too important to fall victim to the same partisan calculations as with other issues.

For this reason, in the upcoming 116th Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike can take pride in America’s energy revolution, the highly trained workforce that supports it, and the local economic benefits which investment brings.

To fully realize this potential, one of the first things the new Congress must do to is to act on legislation that invests in America’s roads, bridges, and critical water and energy infrastructure. When these investments are coupled with our construction and energy workforce development programs, federal investments go further.

This is partly because NABTU’s training is not reliant on federal dollars. Last year alone, construction trade unions and their contractor partners collectively invested over 1.5 billion dollars through their jointly-managed Registered Apprenticeship programs to prepare and enlist the next generation of craft professionals eager to answer the call to action.

With a bipartisan commitment to strengthening our nation’s infrastructure, Washington can make our roads, bridges and drinking water safe; it can create jobs for the safest and most highly-trained workforce in the country, and it can ensure that American energy continues to reach the consumers who rely on it every day.

This is not to say we’re pollyannish. We know “Kum Ba Yah” will not suddenly break out in the halls of Congress, and that’s okay. Progress in a divided government does not require extreme partisans to suddenly agree on everything — just enough lawmakers of good faith to join together and deliver for the American people.

Sean McGarvey is President of the North American Building Trades Union and Mike Sommers is President and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute.