June 17, 2021
Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Air and Radiation, Environmental Protection Agency
Executive Vice President, Chief Policy Officer, and Head of Strategic Advocacy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
In today’s highly polarized political world, it’s more important than ever for representatives from both parties to work together for the good of their country.
At the Chamber of Commerce’s Second Annual Bipartisanship and Leadership Awards on Thursday, June 17, 2021, six members of Congress shared their insights and perspective on bipartisan leadership and responsible governing in Congress.
Award winners included Rep. Donald Bacon (R-NE-2), Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28), Rep. Brian K. Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1), Sen. Jacklyn Rosen (D-NV), Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), and Rep. Abigail Davis Spanberger (D-VA-7).
Representatives Must Build Broad Coalitions
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-7) noted that this continues to be a historic time for our country in terms of social and political division.
“As we are working on behalf of the people that we represent in our own districts, we have to build coalitions around the ideas and the policies that are good, that will move our country forward,” said Spanberger. “As we are at this pivot point where there's light at the end of the tunnel … it's ever more important that we continue to build broad coalitions, govern in a meaningful way, and continue to listen to the people in our districts.”
Good Leadership Begins With Good Communication and Understanding
When it comes to communicating with others, especially those with different viewpoints, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1) recommends putting yourself in their shoes to see the world through their lens to better understand where they’re coming from.
“If we approach a problem by trying to advocate and convince somebody to think like we do, the conversation's going to go one way,” said Fitzpatrick. “If both sides do that … it makes it so much easier to build consensus.”
“How you talk to people matters,” he continued. “When we're communicating with people, are we trying to learn their perspective? Do we appreciate diversity of thought? Do we view diversity of thought as a strength to be harnessed, or do we view it as a weakness to be criticized?”
Leaders Must Be Willing to Compromise With Each Other
As Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE-2) learned from his first term in Congress, working successfully across the aisle means each party must be willing to do whatever it takes to compromise for the good of the country.
“If you're in the majority, you have to be willing to take about 70% of what you want,” said Bacon. “But if you're in the minority, you have to also be willing to not be the party of ‘no’ … That’s not good for the country.”
“I believe that real leaders don't always have the pleasure to be stubborn,” added Sen. Jacklyn Rosen (D-NV). “We have to come to the table, we have to talk about things. We can agree where we can and fight where we must, but that collaboration and that trust and those friendships and relationships have to happen.”
Both Parties Can Find Common Ground for the Good of the Country
Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) believes an important way government leaders can impact people's lives around the country is to remember where they came from and find common ground based on that.
“As the kid who grew up in poverty in a single-parent household, I saw a lot of kids [who] had tons of potential, but no access to opportunity,” Scott said. “What we've seen over the four or five years of hard work in a bipartisan coalition, we were able to produce legislation that became opportunity zones that [both parties support].”
Scott added that this is because both parties see projects happening in the poorest, most disenfranchised, and oftentimes marginalized communities. While they might fundamentally disagree on most other issues, they can find common ground on the issues of human flourishing and equal access of opportunity.
“That's one of the beauties of the opportunity zones,” Scott said. “It's actually bridging a partisan divide and a powerful way that shows what America can do together.”
“I think that's important to understand that you do what's good for your country, you do what's good for your state, and then the parties should come in,” added Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28). “We’re Republicans, we’re Democrats, but first, we're Americans — and we do the work that's important.”