As a former real-life hockey mom, I remember watching Stanley Cup playoff games with my boys. What struck me was that after those high-intensity, physical games of hockey, the players would line up at the end of the series and shake hands at center ice.
I’ve thought of that often as I’ve met newly elected members of Congress from both parties from all over the country during these early meetings before we are all officially sworn in next month. If in the brutal game of hockey the players can do that, well why then, in what can be a brutal political arena, can’t we all just get along, shake hands, and play nice in the end?
During my campaign travels, the most common plea from people was for me to help end the gridlock that is paralyzing our country and contributing to the hyper-partisanship that has taken over Congress. Yes, jobs and the economy still are our top issues. But people see the bigger picture that our nation can’t address these, or any other key issues, without first finding ways to compromise and disagree respectfully.
I pledged during the campaign to take action. And today, I have reason for cautious optimism.
n Reaching out to new members: I said I would talk to all newly elected members of the House of Representatives, learning more about their families, careers and other non-political aspects of their lives. There are 84 new members of Congress, including 49 Democrats and 35 Republicans. I have spoken or met with 70 of them and plan to talk with the other 14 prior to taking my oath of office on Jan. 3.
I’m finding among many of them a similar desire to end the gridlock, reach out to members from the opposite party, and make our disagreements based on principle, not politics. There is a shared sense among this freshman class that the issues we face are too important to be held hostage by hyper-partisanship.
n Bipartisan retreat: I talked during the campaign about hosting a bipartisan retreat similar to what former U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood sponsored when he was in Congress. I’ve had preliminary discussions with Mr. LaHood and his former assistant, Brad McMillan, who is the director of the Institute for Principled Leadership at Bradley University in Peoria, about hosting a retreat sometime in the near future. We will get this done.
I’m under no illusions that those efforts will remove all partisanship from our decision-making process.
I’ll still speak out for the principles that helped get me elected – strengthening the economic security of the middle class and rebuilding our economy.
But I pledge to be respectful in my disagreements with colleagues and continue to build bridges to make compromise possible on issues that can’t wait any longer.
If hockey players can show respect for the opposition after tough competitions, we should expect no less from our members of Congress. This congressional hockey mom pledges to live up to that expectation.
Note to readers – Cheri Bustos is congresswoman-elect from the 17th District.