Former Members Appeal for Bipartisanship

Posted October 4, 2010 at 3:44pm

A bipartisan group of more than 130 former Members of Congress is appealing to this year’s candidates to stick to the issues and push for common ground if elected.

The ad hoc group, called Former Members of Congress for Common Ground, is led by former Reps. John Porter (R-Ill.) and David Skaggs (D-Colo.). They accused Congress of a hyperpartisan atmosphere that has prevented action on a host of problems facing the country.

“Rome is burning and Congress has been fiddling,” Porter said in a conference call Monday.

Porter said the primary process and legislative redistricting have driven the two parties to ideological extremes and have made it harder to compromise.

He pointed to a lack of bipartisan action on jobs and the economy, huge deficits, education, and dependence on foreign oil as Congressional failures resulting from excessive partisan bickering.

The group signed a letter urging candidates to campaign “with decency and respect toward opponents, to be truthful in presenting information about self and opponents, to engage in good faith debate about the issues and each other’s record, to refrain from personal attack, and if elected, to behave in office according to these same principles.”

Skaggs said there is bipartisan frustration among current lawmakers about the extent to which Congress has become captive to partisan dynamics.

He said the hope is that moderate voters will speak up and demand more solutions from their candidates. But he lamented the electorate’s lack of education in civics, which he said makes voters vulnerable to exaggerated rhetoric and simplistic characterizations.

Both lawmakers said the filibuster has been overused, and Porter called the filibuster “patently anti-democratic.”

“Having everything stopped because you can’t get 60 votes in one of the bodies seems to me to be absolutely unworkable,” Skaggs said.