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Getting to Work on Bipartisanship: ACE Reunites Representatives Moore and Panetta in Salt Lake City

“Just do your job.”

That’s what Representative Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) told an audience at the Hinckley Institute for Politics when asked how members of Congress can work past all the vitriol and derisive language. Congressman Blake Moore (R-UT), the colleague he was visiting in Utah’s northwest, agreed.

Those four words could have been the theme for the entire American Congressional Exchange (ACE) trip.

Rep. Moore’s district, which sits on the edge of the Great Salt Lake, stands in stark contrast to Rep. Panetta’s district along the central California coast where the two kicked off their exchange last July. Despite their distinct backgrounds, they forged a relationship over numerous shared priorities and a desire to get things done in Washington. Namely, both are members of the powerful House Committee on Ways and Means and previously sat together on the Committee on Armed Services, where Rep. Panetta continues to serve.

The trip’s stops addressed several issues currently up for debate in Congress, such as increasing America’s global competitiveness, addressing the dysfunctional budget process, bolstering our national defense, and ensuring resources for servicemembers. Additionally, Rep. Panetta became the first member of Congress to complete two separate ACE trips, having previously swapped visits with Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY).

The day began with a visit to Welfare Square’s facilities in downtown Salt Lake City. Operated by the Church of Latter-day Saints, its volunteers provide food, clothing, and other resources free of charge to those in need. The center also provides regular training for community members—most of whom are immigrants or refugees—to prepare them for the workforce and equip them with tools for self-reliance. Rep. Panetta saw firsthand how these volunteer and faith-based entities act as an important social safety net for the local community.

Next, the congressmen visited Hill Air Force Base in nearby Ogden, Utah. Rep. Moore underscored the local and national significance of the base, which employs more than 23,000 military, civilian, and contractor personnel and is the second-largest Air Force base in terms of population and footprint. The Air Base serves as the key support, logistics, maintenance, and overhaul center for fifth-generation aircraft including the F-35, F-22, and F-16 programs.

A stop at ES3 Material Research and Development Center, which fabricates critical components for the aerospace sector, further underscored the importance of the region’s industries for our national defense. Though Rep. Moore no longer serves on the Armed Services Committee, Rep. Panetta highlighted how the trusted relationship the congressmen forged through their ACE visits has enabled him to vouch for his colleague from across the aisle and ensure his concerns are heard.

Next, the congressmen joined Rep. Moore’s Debt and Deficit Task Force, a group of business and civic leaders from across the state, for a working lunch discussion on debt and deficit reduction. Both congressmen support the establishment of a bipartisan, bicameral fiscal commission in Congress to reign in the mounting national debt. Andrew Lautz, associate director of BPC’s Economic Policy Program, presented to the group on the dangers of continued deficit spending for the country’s long-term fiscal health.

The afternoon concluded on the Great Salt Lake, where the congressmen toured a minerals processing facility and learned how salt is sustainably mined and processed from the waters of the lake. The congressmen then joined the Utah Department of Natural Resources for an airboat ride on the Great Salt Lake, which underscored the importance of responsible land and water-use planning for the region. Both Reps. Moore and Panetta represent districts that are home to fragile water resources, and the congressmen discussed challenges to natural resource conservation and opportunities to champion each other’s conservation goals in Congress.

As night fell on the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, Reps. Moore and Panetta spoke to an audience of students and community members at a forum hosted by the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute for Politics on prospects for bipartisanship in the 118th Congress. Both representatives stressed the importance of meaningful interaction between members from opposing parties, and Rep. Moore emphasized the value of programs like ACE for strengthening relationships across the aisle. “Just being able to go and see [colleagues’ districts] creates a relationship back in Washington where we understand where each other is coming from, why we make decisions, why we do certain things we do,” he said.

From there, both members agreed that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle can—and must—work together to pass meaningful legislation and address the most pressing issues facing Washington and the nation.

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