Weekly Columns

The State of the Union, the constitutionally mandated presidential address, is typically delivered to Congress at the beginning of the year. While today’s method of delivery is a speech before a joint session of Congress, Thomas Jefferson started a common practice among presidents that lasted for more than a century of delivering a written report to lawmakers. 

For the first time in Barack Obama’s presidency, he will deliver a State of the Union address to a Republican-led House and Senate. Some see this divided government as a prescription for gridlock. Others, like myself, see this as an opportunity for Congress and the administration to work together to accomplish what the American people sent us to Washington to do – get things done. 

This arrangement of a divided government has worked before. Bill Clinton worked with a Republican Congress for six years of his presidency. There is no reason why it can’t work today.   

We certainly won’t always agree on all of the issues, but we can find common ground without abandoning our ideological principles. The final product of these agreements will not allow either party to get everything it wants, but compromise is not a bad thing. 

Last Congress, with a Democrat Majority in the Senate blocking bills passed by the Republican controlled House, we still managed bipartisan legislation. We agreed on a new Farm Bill that ensures the continued safety, affordability, and reliability of our food supply while achieving real savings in federal spending. We reformed the VA to address the horrific wait time crisis our veterans faced while trying to receive the health care they earned. We passed a spending agreement bill that brings discretionary spending to its lowest level in almost a decade and has a number of provisions that adhere to conservative principles. 

One way the President can show he is ready to work together is by respecting the constitutional limits of the office and stop creating rules and regulations without the approval of Congress. 

Congress is crafting bipartisan legislation to improve our nation’s energy supply by approving the Keystone XL pipeline. Tapping into the Canadian oil sands will offer us a reliable source of energy from one of our strongest allies and trading partners while creating jobs.  

The House passed this legislation and the Senate will follow suit after debating and amending the bill. However, the President threatens to veto this bipartisan supported piece of legislation. This is just one of the veto threats President Obama already issued in the new Congress. 

The American people want the President to work with Congress. I believe we can find common ground. We all want hardworking Americans to be employed and to see our economy recover. There is bipartisan support in Congress for tax reform and for making Washington more efficient and accountable. 

We’ve seen positive results from a divided government. I encourage President Obama to follow President Clinton’s example and work with Congress to improve the lives of all Americans.