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‘We Got Along’ — Big John Dingell Remembers

When I lost the battle to stay chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, some of the first Members to come to visit me were Rep. Chet Edwards, a conservative Democrat from Texas, and Republican Reps. Joe Barton (Texas) and Fred Upton (Mich.) — two men who have been a part of tremendous work on the committee, even when we’ve had disagreements.

I was fortunate to work with my friend, former Chairman Billy Tauzin (La.), on the legislation creating the Do Not Call list, which now protects Americans from intolerable telemarketer harassment.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) and I agree on very little when it comes to gun rights. However, after the horrendous shootings at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, we worked together to pass a bill that will help keep guns out of the hands of madmen, while protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens. It’s a good law, and I’m glad we were able to get it done together.

And starting from the middle, in the 110th Congress, we passed a consumer product safety bill with final vote in the full House of 424-1. This bill was not perfect, but as Obama said last week, “We can’t afford to make perfect the enemy of the absolutely necessary,” and a strong bill to protect our children’s toys was absolutely necessary last year.

If you have any doubt that the majority of Americans want that kind of cooperation, then you have forgotten the lessons that Obama taught us in November. He is just the right leader for this time in our history.

I also think that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has been as successful a Speaker as any in our recent history, can be the leader who reaches across the aisle and builds consensus with Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) on the major policy issues before us. And last but not least, the new chairman of Energy and Commerce, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), has been gracious by creating an opportunity for me to work on one of the most important issues of our time — health care.

I look forward to taking ideas from the president and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and building consensus on a bill that will provide health care coverage for all Americans. With Waxman’s support, I plan to lead the committee’s efforts in passing that bill, and I invite my Republican colleagues to be a part of legislation that will provide relief and comfort to millions of Americans, as well as salvation for American businesses going broke paying the cost of health care.

What I have come to believe after 53 years here is that we have much better chance of success with both sides working for solutions than we do working against each other. We cannot afford to let the rivalries of the past prevent us from acting in a way that will better the future of our nation.

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