We came to Washington in January as freshmen lawmakers to make tough choices and take on big issues, but the partisanship overwhelmed us. The same old talking points from both parties. Each side socializing only with like-minded members. The idea that compromise equated to selling out to the “enemy.”

In April, after listening to each other for months in the House Financial Services Committee, we decided to get lunch. We quickly realized that, while we disagreed on many issues, we had a similar outlook on a host of others. After getting together a few more times, we started inviting colleagues to talk over breakfast each week, brainstorming solutions to our nation’s problems.

For months now, this bipartisan group of 14 members has been holding regular breakfast meetings to catch up, talk policy and develop legislation. In recent weeks, our group has proposed legislation to address three issues critical to our economic recovery: boosting domestic business expansion, getting people back to work and finding a productive and responsible way to work through the housing crisis.

Currently, $1.4 trillion in capital earned by U.S. companies is stuck overseas because of the companies’ reluctance to pay a 35 percent tax to bring it home. In 2004, Congress passed a repatriation holiday, allowing corporations to bring back overseas money at a reduced rate. It was wildly unsuccessful — the money was used for stock buybacks, dividend payments and executive compensation — in part because the holiday’s two-year window prevented long-term planning.

If done right, however, a long-term repatriation plan could be enormously beneficial to our economy. We have structured legislation so that a business could bring home only as much as it used to expand its payroll and invest in new fixed assets, a provision that would require businesses that participate to add U.S. jobs and grow domestically. Our bill calls for a 10-year window, allowing businesses to plan and make smart choices about how to reinvest in America.

While it is important to stimulate job growth over the long term, we must also get Americans back to work immediately. One way is through the Employ Act, a bipartisan bill that updates unemployment insurance to incentivize businesses to hire unemployed workers. States would opt in, and the program would provide companies that hire an unemployed worker with a portion of that person’s unemployment benefits (which he or she would no longer need). The government would retain the unpaid portion of the unemployment benefits. This bill is a win-win: It saves money and puts people back to work.


Of course, addressing the housing crisis is another integral part of improving and stabilizing the fundamentals of our economy. A third bill developed by our group would establish pretax home savings accounts for any American who wants to set aside money for a down payment on a first home. Promoting homeownership responsibly through equity instead of debt is key to remedying our housing market.

These bills won’t solve all of our problems, and it’s true that our group is only a small portion of Congress — but bipartisanship has to start somewhere. The greatness of America is rooted in the notion that disagreement is the foundation of a strong and robust political system. Compromise, however, is an essential component of a functioning democracy. It was the Great Compromise of 1787 that set the stage for the adoption and ratification of the Constitution.

People can blame the opposite party, the media, two-year terms, the redistricting process, campaign finance and many other issues for our stalemate. But the only way to change things right now is to engage the other side and put forward smart solutions that the American people can support.

We can disagree on the issues, but we must agree that progress is more important than politics and partisanship. Although lawmakers have different political philosophies, we members of Congress must always remember that we are all Americans first. It’s time to step up and work together.

John Carney is a Democratic representative from Delaware. Jim Renacci is a Republican representative from Ohio.

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