A bipartisan bridge opens between the House and Senate
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In early December, Congress will once again face urgent deadlines of its own making, with votes required to fund the government (or face a shutdown) and avoid breaching the federal debt ceiling.

This can’t get done without a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate. Neither can the targeted health care reforms, legislation to help the Dreamers or so much else that many on both sides of the aisle want to see passed this year.


Washington hasn’t lately provided much reason for hope. But something just happened that should give us a little optimism.

This week, No Labels announced that Democratic Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinFormer coal exec Don Blankenship launches third-party presidential bid Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Overnight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics MORE (W.Va.) and Republican Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Senate confirms controversial circuit court nominee Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families MORE (Maine) will become honorary co-chairs. In joining No Labels, they have committed to rally their colleagues in the Senate behind bipartisan solutions and to provide a bridge to the growing House Problem Solvers Caucus, which now counts 47 members, almost equally divided between the parties.

This gives Congress something it hasn’t had in some time.

An organized and empowered group of members—in both chambers—who are committed to getting to “yes” on key issues instead of just finding different ways to say no.

Washington may appear as dysfunctional and divided as it has ever been, but many in Congress I talk to are showing a renewed determination to do something about it.

They realize our nation isn’t facing the run-of-the mill partisanship that has afflicted Washington for years.

Our government is in crisis, stuck in a vicious cycle. Nothing gets done, problems get worse and opportunities are lost. The public gets angrier. And the cycle repeats.

I thought our political environment was at a low point when I left the Senate in 2013. It was a failure of imagination on my part. It’s gotten much worse.

But recently, the House Problem Solvers Caucus—working with leaders like Sens. Manchin and Collins—have begun to retake the initiative.

It started over the summer when the Problem Solvers released the first bipartisan health care fix offered in this Congress. They didn’t try to fix every problem in the system, instead focusing on a targeted solution to stabilize the health care marketplace, keep health insurance premiums down for the American people and give more authority to the states. Sens. Manchin and Collins were both champions for a similar approach in the Senate and it is no coincidence the bipartisan plan recently offered by Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderPelosi aide hopeful White House will support drug-pricing bill despite criticism Overnight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies Juan Williams: Republicans flee Trump MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenators press FDA tobacco chief on status of vaping ban Retirement bill blocked in Senate amid fight over amendments Senate Democrats call on White House to abandon plan to collect DNA from migrants MORE (D-Wash.) shared many elements of the Problem Solvers plan.

There is no more partisan issue in Washington than health care and yet here we are with serious bipartisan plans on the table in the House and in the Senate, with recent reports indicating the Alexander-Murray plan has the 60 votes necessary to pass.

The question is will leadership bring it to the floor for a vote?

I certainly hope they do because I believe this Congress and our nation face a very stark, binary choice in the months ahead. One of two things will happen:

Congress will pass significant legislation, with bipartisan leaders like Manchin and Collins and the Problem Solvers at the forefront.

Or it will pass no legislation at all, and our country will suffer.

I hope and believe it will be the former. For starters, I served with Joe and Susan for several years in the Senate. I know they came to Washington to get things done for their constituents and their country, and I know they will work relentlessly to find common cause on both sides of the aisle and solutions rooted in common sense.

The American people are also sending an increasingly powerful signal that they want our leaders to find a way to work together.

In a recent Gallup poll, three times as many Americans (54 percent) said they preferred leaders who compromise to get things done over ones who stick to their principles even if little gets done (18 percent). That’s a 3 to 1 ratio, the largest such gap since Gallup started asking this question.

The people are fed up with the divisiveness and dysfunction but so too are the leaders who represent them.

The vast majority of members of Congress are in public service for the right reasons. They want to get things done and do right by the people back home.

To my friends in Congress: This is your chance and now is the time.

Joe Lieberman is a former senator from Connecticut and the current National Co-Chair of No Labels.