Highlights from Bipartisan Panel at Kennedy Institute
Monday night joined U.S. Reps. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) on a panel at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate about fostering civic dialogue, civility in politics, and opportunities for finding common ground in the 116th Congress. The panel was moderated by Paul Kane, Senior Congressional Correspondent and Columnist for The Washington Post.
This was part of a two-day program hosted by the Congressional Study Group on American Democracy and Civics through the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress. Davis and Kennedy serve as co-chairs of the group created to strengthen our democratic process by showcasing bipartisanship, civility, and emphasizing the importance of civic knowledge.
Below are a few highlights of the panel discussion. Click here to watch the full event.
Davis speaks about one of his most bipartisan moments since coming to Congress. Davis and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) organized a bipartisan special order to honor all Medal of Honor recipients in the history of our country on the House floor.
The trip even yielded some bipartisan actions. Davis agreed to be the lead Republican cosponsor of Blunt Rochester's bill, the Clean Slate Act, to reform the criminal justice system. Learn more about the bill here.
Panel moderator, Paul Kane, highlighted Davis’ leadership on immigration reform. Davis is chair of the Republican Main Street Caucus, which helped bring immigration bills to the House floor earlier this year.
Davis: "Those of us that are left, we’re more than willing to sit down, we always have been. But the immigration debate has been hijacked by the far right and the far left. Every time we get to a solution, leadership of both parties comes in and pulls each side away. We had, the last bill I voted for, I voted for both versions of immigration reform that came up. The last one I thought has wins for both sides- full funding for border security, changing our immigration system. The process needs to change and we had some common-sense changes in there and we had a path to legal status for DACA kids and dreamers. And we codified that no family could ever be separated at the border again. The sad part is that we got zero Democratic votes and didn’t get nearly enough Republican votes. And that’s what frustrates me because we had the chance to solve the issue and it just didn’t happen because of politics."
Davis and Kennedy were asked about promoting more civility in politics. Both spoke that it is on both sides to keep talking about why civility is important.
Davis: "We’ve got to do better and that’s one of the reasons why we’re all here. It’s easy to spend time back home, talking to constituents, fill in your days with meetings, visits. But to be able to come half way across the country like we are today, in Joe’s district. Such a history in the Kennedy family, we all know the history of the Kennedy family with violence. And to be able to talk, here at the Kennedy Center, about civility and bipartisanship. This right here is how you stop the political rhetoric of getting to the point that his family has witnessed and that I witnessed. It’s going to take events like this, it’s going to take courage and it’s going to take both sides."
"We all need to come together as Americans. I said that immediately after the shooting, when I went to the media. This has got to stop. The heat of the rhetoric that we’ve seen on all sides has got to be toned down and we’ve got to have more events like this, we’ve got to have civility and discussions like this. And I hope you leave here today knowing that what we’re saying here is not an act. We truly do like each other. We truly do have the friendships that lead to good legislative successes."
Kennedy: "What all of us can do is decide how we are going to respond.
"These are political debates and they are passionate and there are consequences to them on healthcare, immigration, climate change, LGBT rights, and all of them. People are affected by these policies for better or for worse. We’ve crossed the line where people are getting hurt and that’s not okay. At a certain point, every one of us can do better, every one of us can decide if we’re going to retweet something, post something, like something."
"I think if there’s enough people that say “no” we’ll be all the better for it."
As freshmen, Davis and Kennedy placed a friendly wager on the 2013 World Series when the St. Louis Cardinals lost to the Boston Red Socks.