By Representative Bill Pascrell
THE CONFETTI has been dropped. The last ads have aired and the last ballots have been cast. To the relief of many, the 2012 campaign has finally come to a close, and President Obama has been reelected. Now comes the hard part: governing.
This was not just a campaign. It was a great national debate about two competing visions for the future of our nation. In the end, it was won on the ground. President Obama, myself and Democrats across the country campaigned on the idea that America is not a country where you are on your own, but rather a nation of shared prosperity and a strong middle class.
Eleven months ago, I began my reelection campaign under the same premise as my very first. I would always fight for our middle class and bring folks on both sides of the aisle together so that we can solve our most pressing national problems.
I have been humbled by the support I have received from folks across northern New Jersey, from the small-business owner in Fort Lee to the waitress in Passaic.
As Congress reconvenes, I will do everything in my power to fight for those people I met on the streets this year, and uphold the values we affirmed on Nov. 6.
The challenges that our country faces moving forward are daunting. But they are not impossible to solve if we can put our differences aside.
Putting politics aside
New Jersey knows something about that. In the wake of the worst natural disaster to strike our state in my lifetime, we did not dissolve into partisan bickering and shifting the blame. Our Republican governor, working hand in hand with a Democratic president, in the middle of a heated presidential campaign, put politics aside in order to get things done. That is the kind of bipartisan leadership Americans have long been calling for, and folks in Washington should take a look at how we came together in New Jersey as we begin to tackle our national challenges.
The most immediate one we face is avoiding the austerity time bomb of the "fiscal cliff," a combination of expiring tax provisions and spending cuts that will slam the brakes on our accelerating recovery.
As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, I know how critical it is to reach a compromise on this issue.
Before the election, President Obama and many in Congress wanted to come to a compromise deal that included a balance of spending cuts and revenue increases. Unfortunately, some Republicans have balked at any deal that includes one dime of new taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
Part of the solution
I hope that my colleagues will look at the choice the American people made in the election and decide to be a part of the solution. Now is not the time for partisan hand wringing. We must come together and move our economy and recovery forward.
Likewise, our country faces immense challenges in the future that will be too big for one party to tackle on its own. Our immigration system is horribly broken and needs comprehensive reform. Our climate is warming and our oceans are rising, often with disastrous and costly consequences.
And our tax system incentivizes companies to ship jobs overseas instead of rebuilding our manufacturing base here at home.
All of these challenges are big. But America has faced big challenges before, like the health care crisis, and we've always come out on top.
Disunity on health care reform
To my disappointment, my Republican friends did not join us in passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, historic legislation that will provide nearly 40 million Americans with quality health care. In recent years, many have become more extreme, and moderates like my friend Steve LaTourette from Ohio have left Congress in disgust. But I am hopeful that the dream of bipartisanship is not dead.
On Election Day, America resoundingly gave President Obama four more years. We cannot afford to spend them with the other side simply being the Party of No. We need our Republican colleagues to join us if we are going to tackle the immense challenges that we face so that we can leave a better world for our children and grandchildren.