Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., was an early Donald Trump supporter and applauds the president’s performance to date. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., is a Trump opponent who feels “very strongly that we have to get to the bottom of” the Russia hacking story. Yet the two members of Congress are doing something very strange for Washington these days: working together, on a bipartisan basis, to try to get things done.

The two are leaders of the Problem Solvers Caucus, which to date boasts 20 Republican representatives and 20 Democrats. The caucus isn’t new, but this year it has adopted rules that could give it more clout in Congress. If three-quarters of its members, including at least half the delegations of each party, vote for a position, the entire caucus will vote that way on the floor.

No one would argue that this is going to end polarization in the United States. It remains to be seen what the 40 can agree on among themselves, let alone whether they can drag the rest of the House along with them. But at a time when party members are tempted to view the other side as enemies rather than well-intentioned opponents, their commitment to governing should be applauded. They helped push adoption of the continuing resolution on this year’s budget, which avoided a government shutdown, and they said they are hoping to play a similarly constructive role when the debt ceiling needs to be raised next year.

“The folks who sent me here don’t want me to take a pure obstructionist approach,” Gottheimer told us. “They want me to sit at the table and try to get things done.” Added Reed: “Some have classified it as treason — the people on the extremes, who just want to play shirts versus skins. But the appetite for this is strong.”

The Problem Solvers Caucus isn’t alone in trying to restore some bipartisanship to governing. Issue One, a nonprofit dedicated to campaign finance reform, has recruited 180 former members of Congress, 45 percent of whom are Republican, according to executive director Nick Penniman. Advocacy on the issue “has shifted to the left in the past two decades, to the detriment of the cause,” Penniman said. The organization is convinced that many members of both parties would, for example, welcome reforms that allowed them to spend less time fundraising.

The Trump presidency has sharpened divisions and heightened the challenge for people wanting to work across the aisle, Reed and Gottheimer both said. But they also said it hasn’t lessened the urgency of trying. “I believe at the end of the day, people want us to govern, and that’s what they’ll judge us on,” Reed said.

Editorial by The Washington Post

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