BipartisanshipBy Kip Eideberg, AEM Senior Vice President of Government & Industry Relations

Editor’s Note: This was originally published by RealClearPolicy, the one-stop shop for analysis of U.S. domestic policy, with a special focus on the output of think tanks, associations, and foundations. It is being republished here with their permission. Read the original opinion piece here.

On the campaign trail, Joe Biden pledged to sign legislation to rebuild our nation's infrastructure. Americans from both political parties appreciated the message. The roads, bridges, tunnels, railways, airports, and port facilities vital to our economy are in urgent need of rejuvenation.

A full year has passed since the election. And somehow, during that time, the importance of this endeavor was lost on our elected representatives in Washington. Lawmakers crafted a bill that bipartisan majorities supported and the president was ready to sign. Workers were ready to punch in. Equipment manufacturers and other businesses were ready to supply them with the equipment and raw materials they needed.

But for months, nothing happened -- until now. Last week, after endless delays and constant political in-fighting, the bill finally passed the House of Representatives. But it should never have taken this long -- and the fact that it did spells trouble for our country.

Rather than swiftly passing legislation that earned bipartisan support, Congressional leaders chose to squabble over matters that had nothing to do with infrastructure -- from healthcare reform proposals to universal preschool. Make no mistake, those issues are important. But they should not have stood in the way of immediate legislative action on a vital infrastructure funding package.

My organization represents America's equipment manufacturers, who have been watching events in Washington carefully. They are simply incredulous.

These businesses are not political. Some of their senior leaders are Democrats and some are Republicans. But imagine if they ran their companies like Washington is currently operating -- each corporate suite split into two factions who have decided a battle for control is more important than getting on with business. Nothing would get done. Companies would lose money on their way to bankruptcy proceedings; and shareholders would rebel and vote in a new board.

Anybody who thinks billion-dollar decisions at American businesses are not fiercely contested internally has probably never heard of "New Coke" or what has been going on at Facebook. But when corporate executives have internal disagreements, they have to find a resolution before their companies go up in flames.  

In our industry, we compromise with investors, employees, customers, and suppliers. We set aside our differences and find common ground to achieve outcomes that benefit the 2.8 million men and women of our industry -- and the millions more who own shares in our companies through their retirement accounts. If we do not compromise, we do not stay in business. It's that simple.

Many members of Congress themselves embrace the same imperatives. Thanks to the tireless efforts across party lines of lawmakers such as Representatives Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is now on its way to the President's desk for signature.

Bipartisanship is critical to the effective functioning of our government and the long-term success of American business. When our elected officials try to legislate in a way designed to please only members of their own party, their main work product is uncertainty.

Policy changes enacted narrowly on partisan votes are subject to undoing whenever the political pendulum swings back -- as it inevitably does. Policies with bipartisan support are more stable, and that gives industry more certainty as executives plan and make decisions. 

None of America's greatest challenges can be solved by one party alone. As Maryland Governor Larry Hogan recently said, there is no such thing as a Republican bridge or a Democratic tunnel, adding: "Americans are stuck paying the price in tires destroyed by potholes, hours lost due to delayed trains and kids struggling to do their homework with inadequate broadband."

In the private sector, from the factory floor to the C-suite, we all know that every working day demands collaboration and compromise. Few original ideas advance intact. They evolve and mature in a constant give-and-take.

Congress must re-learn this way of doing the people's business. Until they do, our country will be ill-equipped to address even bigger issues -- from climate change to entitlement reform. That's a prospect that should concern every American.

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