Op-Ed

Congress won’t accomplish anything without civility, respect

TNS

A long and uninspiring election season has come and gone. Americans from all regions of the country, with diverse backgrounds and beliefs, cast ballots for candidates who best represented their vision for the future. Since Election Day, we have seen a wide array of emotions, from celebration to protest. As the dust settles and we look towards the future, officials at all levels must put politics aside and serve the people who elected them to make government more efficient.

I have been given the honor of returning to the U.S. House of Representatives for another two years to represent our South Florida community in Congress. Throughout the campaign, the theme I reiterated to constituents was the need for civility, the need to put people and ideas above petty politics. Campaigns might focus on personalities and personal attacks, but governing requires thoughtfulness and consensus-building. Those who govern must lead serious discussions of ideas for making our community and the country better places to live and raise a family. This is the only way we can hope to restore Americans’ trust and confidence in government and its institutions.

I am proud of the bipartisan work done to secure $10 billion in transportation projects for Florida; to give English Language Learners in schools a fair shot at success; and to promote critical Everglades restoration projects.

Looking forward, we will work to reform an antiquated tax code for the first time in more than 30 years to promote strong economic growth that will reach every American household — not just those at the top of the income ladder. We hope to finally reform all aspects of a dysfunctional immigration system, from strengthening border security to finding a fair solution for undocumented immigrants who are contributing to our economy — this after 10 years of debate and inaction. Congress will also work to address the considerable spikes seen recently in healthcare premiums under the Affordable Care Act and other flaws in the law, while keeping components that protect the most vulnerable and benefit those with preexisting conditions.

But we won’t be able to accomplish anything noteworthy unless all parties have a seat at the table to share their views and contribute. I encourage the new administration to be inclusive. It didn’t take me long to learn that without bipartisan cooperation little gets done in Washington. The best laws are often products of compromise and negotiation.

With each new chapter in our nation’s history we should expect our leaders to come together to unite the people they serve, especially after a polarizing election. This is not the first time we have been divided, and it will not be the last. The American people have spoken through the democratic process and they sent a message of frustration with the political status quo. They expect the culture in Washington, D.C., to change. I do, too, and I am working hard to do my part by trying to practice a politics that is more sober, more humble, and that rejects vitriol and hyperbole.

Right now, some people are understandably nervous and anxious. Change in government always produces some uncertainty. But our institutions are strong, and the Constitution reigns supreme. My experiences over the past two years in Congress have taught me that when leaders put civility, people and ideas first and move past pettiness and divisiveness, the possibilities of success are boundless. Our founders and framers believed in the notion of compromise and frequently practiced it. With the support of an informed citizenry demanding accountability and results from their elected officials, the United States can continue to be a beacon and an example in today’s world. And maybe, just maybe, our government can make its citizens proud again.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo represents Florida’s 26th District.

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