New president, new Congress, new opportunity

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With both the Legislative and Executive branches soon to be controlled by the same party, some in Washington may see an opening to promote a one-sided agenda.  But there may not be a better time to break the partisan gridlock that has long gripped Capitol Hill.

Advancing lasting legislative change requires support and buy-in from a bipartisan majority if it is to reflect and respect the broad interests of the American people. Even in light of the election results, it will still be critical to reach across the aisle to find durable compromise.

{mosads}As former members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, we’re hopeful that the 115th Congress will prioritize the need to listen to all of their constituents while working together to shape a better future for the nation.

We know this from experience. Both of us served in Congress when our parties controlled the White House and Congress. Real progress is made by everyone working together in the spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship to make meaningful change in the interests of all Americans.

Both America’s electric cooperatives and credit unions are member-driven.  We respond to the wants and needs of our stakeholder members at every turn.  And we are at our best when we collaborate, cooperate and coordinate. Congress should be no different.

In our roles now as leaders of the trade associations representing the nation’s credit unions and electric cooperatives, we need a Congress that can come together to pass meaningful legislation to address some of the most pressing issues facing the country.

Common-sense regulatory reform, investments in infrastructure, and economic development are among the major issues in which we have a common interest. Tens of millions of hard-working Americans and their families would benefit from action on these priorities.

For credit unions, reform of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is high on our list of priorities necessary to break a one-size-fits-all regulatory scheme that has made it more difficult and more expensive for credit union members to access much-needed credit union services.

Electric cooperatives will continue empowering the American communities we serve.  Strengthening America’s rural economy is one of our critical priorities, and can be achieved through rural infrastructure development, enhanced access to broadband, and a number of other common-sense initiatives that enhance the quality of life in rural America.

During our years in Congress we got things done by building coalitions with colleagues in both parties. Rarely in Washington can you achieve 100 percent of what you want – but we recognized that more was possible with the agreement of many than with the support of few.

President Reagan, writing about compromise and legislative bargaining in his autobiography, said that many who supported his election as governor didn’t appreciate his outreach to political opponents. “Compromise was a dirty word to them and they wouldn’t face the fact that we couldn’t get all of what we wanted today,” he wrote. “They wanted all or nothing and they wanted it all at once. I’d learned while negotiating union contracts that you seldom got everything you asked for.”

President Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neil disagreed on many things, but also famously found common ground on many others as a result of the relationship they built with one another.

Our hope is the same for the new Congress: that you will find common ground and compromise in an effort to improve the lives of all Americans.

Jim Nussle is the president and CEO of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). He is a former director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and an eight-term congressman who served as Chairman of the House Budget Committee. Jim Matheson is CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives. He previously served seven terms as a U.S. representative from Utah.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

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