One month ago, I was sworn in as the new Representative for Alabamaís First Congressional District, which encompasses Mobile, Gulf Shores, and four rural counties north of Mobile Bay. It was the thrill of a lifetime for me, having served as a state Senator and Chancellor of the Alabama two-year college system, to enter the United States Capitol and take the oath to uphold and defend the Constitution on behalf of my friends and neighbors back home.
We hear a lot about how Washington works, or isnít working, back home in Alabama. Itís frustrating for us to read about the many problems facing our nation ó a struggling economy and out-of-control debt, for example ó and see so little action being taken to address them. I vowed if elected, to roll up my shirtsleeves and work together with my future colleagues as a workhorse, not a show horse. The voters in my district responded, sending me to the Capitol with a mission and a message: to cut through the infighting and bring a results-oriented approach to this body.
When I arrived in Washington, I was amazed at the disconnect between the hyper-partisan rhetoric and scathing attacks I read about in the newspapers, and the can-do, work-together attitude Iíve experienced in so many conversations with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Every Member Iíve met so far has been open to bipartisan action on areas where we agree, working together to build consensus and take meaningful steps to address the issues that face us.
I believe we have more in common than many Members publicly admit. Everyone in this body shares a commitment to building a healthy economy where hardworking families have access to good-paying jobs. We also largely agree that the health care law is not working as intended, hurting American families in the process. These issues are having real-world consequences across the country in every congressional district in America. We should focus on our shared goals and work to bridge the gap on how we achieve them.
Although many complain of inaction and gridlock in Congress, I find cause for optimism in many areas. For example, working with my colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee has been a breath of fresh air. Chairman Howard ďBuckĒ McKeon, R-Calif., has done an admirable job of breaking down partisan and geographical barriers to allow bipartisan action to thrive. Iíve especially enjoyed getting to know other Members on the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee who share my commitment to building a Navy able to adapt to the combat needs of the future. The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), built in part at the Port of Mobile in my district, is one such component that I will continue to push as we work together toward this common goal.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.