Does Congress Have a Softer Side?
“What?” may be your immediate reaction to the premise that Congress isn’t all bad. At a time when sequesters, fiscal cliffs and budgetary woes dominate the news, this is a pretty hard story to sell. Okay, I’m not really selling it, I am just presenting a different view—one relayed to me, and other attendees of the recent legislative meeting of the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) and the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA). The groups met this week in Washington, D.C. and two members of Congress addressed attendees: Representative Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) and Senator Angus King, Jr. (I-ME).
Would you believe that there are ways in which members of Congress actually agree, and gasp, get along?
“I went to a bipartisan gathering last night and was surprised about how much agreement there is about this over-regulatory environment,” said Johnson. “But we need support from the Senate and the President.”
And Senator King talked about being a “steadfast believer in greater bipartisan dialogue.”
Congressional members can even admit their mistakes now and again. King talked of the “self-induced crises,” Congress and the President has imposed and said, “We shouldn’t be happy about things we should have been doing all along” [avoiding a government shutdown].
King, a former governor, admitted the Senate is “a very weird place.” But when asked what surprised him most about the Senate he said: “The surprising thing is there are very few stereotypical senators. These are ordinary people. There isn’t this pompous aura. On a personal level it’s not all fighting all the time. There is no personal animosity.”
Most importantly he said something that may give Americans hope for Congress to come together.
“I do get the sense that there is more desire for non-partisanship,” said King. “Many are working together on immigration reform. The budget we will be much harder as items in here are based on core values.”
He added that if Congress could actually come together on the budget great things could happen.
“If we could come to a bipartisan solution, whatever the particulars were, that in itself would be a boost to the economy,” he said. “Just the fact that we can show we can govern would make a difference.”
Now that’s something to hope for.