It is no secret that Congress faces a political climate full of frustration and hostility. Our failure to come together to solve our nation's problems continues to put our shared future in jeopardy.
We have come to think about compromise as capitulation. Some even see free speech as a tactic to suppress their outrage at government recklessness, rather than a reasonable approach to cordially debating our differences. One thing I've learned—and I have said this to Republicans and Democrats and everyone in between—is, bees cannot sting and make honey at the same time. They have to make a choice. Either they can sting other bees, or they can make honey with other bees. You cannot do both.
Unfortunately, Congress spends too much time fighting itself and too little time fighting for our constituents and the issues we believe in. We are a better, more compassionate, and caring nation than our current behavior portrays. We must be able to discuss our disagreements without allowing our discourse to deteriorate into this habit of hostility. While partisanship is a vital component of democracy, only healthy disagreement can propel us forward, to better ideas and better days. Embracing a civil exchange of ideas and respectful differences of opinion fosters real debate, and allows our best ideas to thrive.
That is why I have formed the Working Group for a Working Congress with my good friend and colleague, Congresswoman Kay Granger. This working group is comprised of Democrats and Republicans, and will work to demonstrate how we can be ardent in our advocacy without the cantankerous tone that is all too common. We will focus both on relationship building with lawmakers themselves and examine the committee process to create opportunities for bipartisan work on a small scale, and advocate for a return to regular order on a large one.
The founders designed our American Government anticipating partisanship. It is embedded in our country’s DNA, the Constitution. We thrive on our differences and on our diversity. But our differences only become virtuous when we discuss them with civility and statesmanship. When we allow hyper-partisanship to control the conversation, what once was a virtue becomes the downfall of a divided nation.
You can keep up with my weekly civility messages below, or by clicking Civility Message. You may also follow me on Twitter @repcleaver. Every Friday, I tweet a series of civility-themed messages. I encourage you to follow along, retweet, and share your own thoughts.
More on Civility
These last few weeks, I’ve been spending time in the Fifth Congressional District of Missouri, meeting with constituents, and learning about their concerns. Members of Congress are elected to serve the constituents of their districts, and the first step in meeting that obligation is to listen to the issues impacting their daily lives.
In a few days, the world’s spotlight will shine on Kansas City, Missouri as thousands will gather at the National World War I Museum and Memorial for a once-in-a-lifetime event, the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the United States entry into World War I.
I will vote “No” on TrumpCare – H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act of 2017.
There is just too much for the American public to lose. Americans will suffer with less health care coverage, fewer protections and higher costs.
Yesterday, President Donald Trump released his FY 2018 budget recommendations. Though the power to spend and appropriate lies squarely with Congress, every year the President offers a budget proposal. This year’s budget proposal left me astounded. Surely something with such blatant disregard for our most vulnerable citizens could not, should not, and will not pass in Congress.
President Trump’s cuts to several departments are simply put - harmful. This budget hurts working families, veterans, and especially low-income families and elderly citizens.
This month is a very special month. During March we celebrate Women’s History Month – a commemoration that has occurred in America since 1987. Throughout this month we honor the historic women who have sacrificed and stood against great odds to make their voices heard.
This week on Capitol Hill has been a trying and unbelievable week. I had intended to join my colleagues from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who called for a meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, (ICE) officials, and found myself in unprecedented territory. A number of Democratic Members of Congress, myself included, were barred from entering the meeting. Never has this happened, in my twelve years in Congress, that Members were denied access to an informational meeting – especially the very Members who had requested the meeting.
I’ve watched in dismay as the stroke of a pen sent many people across our nation into a spin of uncertainty and disbelief. I want you to know that all is not lost. There is still something that we can do.
I recently wrote an Op-Ed that was published in USA Today about how we, in Congress, are to behave in the midst of political discourse. Just when I thought my heart-felt words were falling on deaf ears, I received a letter from a citizen. This gentleman took the time to type a letter and send it to my office. He wasn’t in my district and I have never met him but his sincere words resonated with me in a way that made me, well, hopeful. Here’s an excerpt from his letter.
The 115th Congress was sworn in this week. With each new Congress there is a chance of a new beginning, a chance to fight once again for the wellbeing of our citizens. As I took the oath to begin my seventh term as a member of the House, representing Missouri’s 5th District, I thought to myself, there is so much I want to achieve for the American people and I have been graciously given another chance, another opportunity to do so.