An opportunity for greatness: The next Congress should build upon successes of the 115th
© Greg Nash

Political stories about drama, infighting, and partisan polarization grab far more viewers than stories about bipartisanship, consensus and hard work. However, while talking heads have spent the last two years magnifying every tweet, squabble and personnel change, Congress has been working diligently in a bipartisan manner to improve life for all Americans.

We enacted comprehensive legislation to counter the opioid crisis that is indiscriminately attacking our communities — killing more Americans annually than car accidents. We passed the VA MISSION Act to improve veteran access to health care by streamlining VA bureaucracy, supporting the VA Choice Program, and expanding access to care options. We passed the STOP School Violence Act to secure our children’s schools and train first responders. We passed a National Defense Authorization Act that ensures readiness, maintains equipment, restores our nation’s military capabilities, and provides a 2.6 percent pay raise for our troops — the largest in 9 years.

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These are just a small representative sample of the more than 275 bills Congress has sent to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump claims media 'smeared' students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values MORE to be signed into law. Of these bills, nearly 70 percent have had bipartisan support, carrying both Republican and Democrat cosponsors — the highest in the past 20 years.

We accomplished a great deal this Congress, and we should not allow partisanship to grind progress to a halt in the 116th Congress. Our constituents expect results, not political spats, and there are many things Republicans and Democrats can work on together next Congress.

Everyone agrees our nation’s infrastructure is in dire need of repair, and the next Congress must craft a comprehensive infrastructure bill that addresses the needs of districts across the nation — urban, suburban and rural. My district, Michigan’s 10th, stretches from metro Detroit’s Macomb County through the rural farmland of the Thumb. We face diverse infrastructure challenges including public transit access, road construction, inadequate rural broadband, water and sewer issues, and more. This is not unique; across the nation, folks are dealing with bad roads, crumbling bridges and outdated infrastructure, and there is strong bipartisan support for national leadership on this issue.

We can also continue to close the skills gap by expanding career and technical education opportunities for students across the nation. In the 115th Congress, we unanimously passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which reauthorizes and upgrades our nation’s career and technical education programs to better reflect the realities and challenges facing students and workers in a 21st century labor market.

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Moving forward, we should bring more information about career and technical education to younger students. Many students and families begin making decisions that affect their education and career path while in middle school, and we should give them the tools and information to pick a pathway that reflects their interests and skill set best. By expanding career and technical education and experiences, more Americans will enter the current workforce with the knowledge and skills they need to compete for well-paying jobs.

I believe these are just two examples of what we can accomplish if the needs of the American people are put ahead of partisan politics as the 116th Congress begins. During the last two years we achieved great things by working in a bipartisan manner on many issues, and I am hopeful that if we can keep the focus on sound policy and substantive change, instead of gathering soundbites for 2020, we will continue to grow our economy, improve our nation and ensure opportunities exist for our children and grandchildren.

Rep. Paul MitchellPaul MitchellDem leaders avert censure vote against Steve King Steve King faces new storm over remarks about white supremacy GOP conference chair: Steve King's comments were 'abhorrent' and 'racist' MORE, a Republican, represents Michigan’s 10th Congressional District. He serves on the serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure; the Armed Services; and the Oversight and Government Reform committees. You can follow him on Twitter @RepPaulMitchell.