When I decided to run for Congress in 2010, I began my campaign with the conviction that no issue was more important than putting men and women across Rhode Island back to work.
For too long, national policies had left behind far too many working families in our state. In cities such as Woonsocket, factory employees who worked hard their whole lives were left to fend for themselves because of tax incentives for corporations to ship jobs overseas. Students at schools such as Rhode Island College were anxious that they wouldn’t be able to find work even after they earned their degrees. And small-business owners from Smithfield to Newport were still unable to get access to the capital they needed to support their companies.
Of course, Rhode Islanders certainly weren’t alone in their frustration — the same sentiments were held by men and women across our country. But as I begin the second year of my first term in Congress, I am struck by how little progress has been made to put our country back on the right track.
Since assuming the majority last year, the House Republican leadership has repeatedly missed opportunities to get things done and instead has focused on extreme legislation with little or no chance of passing in the Senate. Making an ideological point has trumped getting things done. Several times during the past year, Republican leaders pushed our country to the brink — bowing to tea party pressure to resist any compromise even as unemployment remained high and Congressional approval plunged to record lows.
But following public rejection of their most recent effort to end a middle-class tax cut and unemployment benefits, I hope that my Republican colleagues will recognize that the time has come to get back to work and take real steps to strengthen our economy and get Americans back to work.
There are several bills pending before House committees that would immediately benefit our economy, and the underlying goals of these bills enjoy bipartisan support.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s (D-Conn.) National Infrastructure Development Bank Act would help leverage public and private funding for infrastructure projects — creating jobs and enabling us to rebuild crumbling bridges and roads across our country. Rep. Dan Lipinski’s (D-Ill.) National Manufacturing Strategy Act would direct the president to establish a manufacturing strategy for our country. Rep.Heath Shuler’s (D-N.C.) tax legislation would make the research and development tax credit permanent, encouraging small-business owners to propose and commercialize innovative ideas.
Earlier this year, I introduced the Make It in America Block Grant Program Act, a bill that has garnered 37 House co-sponsors, and a companion bill was introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). This legislation would make investments, administered through the Commerce Department, to help small and medium-sized manufacturers retool their factories, retrain workers and acquire the capital they need to compete. American manufacturing helped push our country ahead in the 20th century, and making it a national priority again is key to revitalizing our economy.
I return to Washington, D.C., even more mindful of the urgency of taking action to improve our nation’s economy and the lives of those I have the honor of representing and more aware of the obstacles that continue to impede progress for everyday Americans.
A willingness to cross party lines and put pragmatism ahead of partisanship has been missing for far too long in Washington. But with millions of our friends, family members and neighbors still out of work, it has never been more important for Congress to get to work so that Americans can get back to work. We can’t wait.
Rep. David Cicilline is a member of the Small Business and the Foreign Affairs committees.
Originally published in Roll Call.