By, Congressman Jim Renacci
On Wednesday morning tragedy struck our nation’s capital when my colleague, U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, congressional aide Zachary Barth, Tyson Foods executive Matt Mika and Capitol Police officers David Bailey and Crystal Griner were shot. That is five innocent people. At least 21 members of Congress and two U.S. senators were at the early morning practice, however only one came with security. Scalise, the majority whip and third-ranking GOP house member, is one of nine lawmakers who have security detail in D.C. Without the two heroic officers on site we would have seen body bags instead of a vacant field covered in blood and bullet holes.
At a time when our nation and our politics have been defined by division, this annual bipartisan charitable event historically has been an agent of unity where Senate and House members take their fighting off the floor and find friendships on the field. Sadly, this year’s game has been overshadowed by an act of ideological anger of the worst order — not by the politicians involved, but by a gunman who opened fire reportedly fueled by political fury.
To one degree or another, politically driven anger is something most of us have felt when we’re passionate about a cause or an issue and frustrated that our views are not heard or addressed. However, today’s hyperpartisan environment is hotter and more harmful than I have ever seen, and we are at risk of more scenes like the one we saw on a D.C.-area baseball field Wednesday morning. There is no question that the time has come to pacify our political discourse in America, and we won’t get there by pointing fingers and assigning partisan blame.
And while it’s incumbent upon all of us, from politicians in Washington to the people they represent in all corners of America, to change the nature of our politics, it’s clear that Washington must lead by example for the good of the country. I’ll never forget arriving in D.C. six and a half years ago and attending one of my first hearings. It blew my mind, coming from the business world where results drive the conversation, how blame-shifting and finger-pointing was the entirety of the hearing. There was so much arguing that no one even was asking the witnesses questions. It was clear to me that day that results do not drive Washington — sound bytes do, and I needed a strategy to fulfill the promises I made to the 16th District.
Shortly after that hearing, I co-founded the Bipartisan Working Group, a group of 23 Republican and Democrat lawmakers who believe in fostering interparty collegiality and legislative partnerships without requiring anyone to sacrifice their principles. It provides opportunities for lawmakers to pitch ideas and discover avenues for collaboration between parties. Last Congress, I was able to get four bills signed into law with the feedback and support from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle — acts of true bipartisan cooperation that we see and hear about far too infrequently.
Changing the climate on Capitol Hill will not happen overnight, but working on reforming the culture within our Congress is a strong first step. Real change starts with a demand for far less political posturing and a push to place policies over politics. Leaders on the both sides of the aisle should come together and outline what can move through Congress together, then allow the committees to do their work through the way the institution was intended to function.
The problems we face are not Republican or Democrat problems, they are American problems that require solutions, not sound bytes. Democrats and Republicans alike want our children to have a brighter future, a vibrant economy and a safe, thriving country. But to meet the common challenges we all face, Washington must spend less time assigning blame for what didn’t get done and more time on getting the job done.
And while Washington hopefully begins its own movement of unity, communities and families across America should do the same. Listen to your crazy uncle’s rant and realize that what he is saying is important to him. Try to see things through your opinionated neighbor’s eyes, but never jeopardize your values. Read the full article, not just the headline and take in the argument before forming your response.
I will continue to listen to my colleagues across the aisle. I will continue to open my door to opposition. I welcome anyone who disagrees with a vote I made or a statement I wrote to meet with me face-to-face and have a discussion on how to move forward. Let’s work together and start today, because we all want to thrive.
Jim Renacci of Wadsworth, a Republican, represents Ohio’s 16th Congressional District.