Leading Oversight Dem and GOP Member Go to Each Other's Districts to Foster Understanding
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has seen GOPs and Democrats infamously at each other's throats throughout the 113th Congress, but two members kicked off recess trying to walk in each other's shoes a bit.
Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) -- political polar opposites -- agreed to visit each other's districts and try to understand their respective priorities.
"What we did is Jason Chaffetz had asked about a month ago to come to my district and that we would -- I would go to his district. And he came, he had an opportunity to meet with some patients that were, you know, struggling with AIDS -- HIV/AIDS. He had an opportunity to meet with some of my seniors and to meet with some young people who were trying to get their lives back together after having gone through some tough times and trying to get back with their families," Cummings told MSNBC this morning.
"And so, he had the chance to actually meet with a lot of the people that I represent. And I think he got an idea of what I'm fighting for, when I come to the Congress and the people that I have to -- that are looking up to me to solve some of their problems."
Cummings flew to Utah yesterday "and had an opportunity to meet with his constituents."
"And I got to tell you that, you know, they have their sets of issues that they've got to deal with... it made me a lot more sensitive to what they're dealing with. And I'm pretty sure, as I watched them in my district talking to people there, that I believe it sensitized him to the things that I'm dealing with," he added. "And hopefully, that will lead to compromise and help us to work out some problems."
Chaffetz stressed he's "pretty good at throwing political barbs," but "actually want to get some stuff done."
"And I believe in that adage, seek first to understand and then to be understood. And so, if you go and you break bread with somebody, you actually look them in the eye and shake their hand and you see, feel, touch, hear, listen to the people, then, gosh, you figure out what you've got in common," Chaffetz said.
"And I was telling this group that, hey, you know, we got to find some common ground. And then I liked what Elijah Cummings said. He said, we can't just get to common ground, we got to get to higher ground. And if we're actually going to pass some legislation that's going to be meaningful, it's going to have to be bipartisan, so you'd better darn well reach out, get out of your comfort zone and actually, you know, just don't throw political barbs, but actually do something."
Cummings said he doesn't know if this new comity will extend to his feisty relationship with Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
"If we can get away from, you know, throwing the bombs and really concentrate on why we're there, as opposed to who we're fighting against, we can concentrate on what we're fighting for, I think we can get things done for the American people," the Democrat said. "And I'm determined to do that and I think it's very important."