In the News
Wanted: Open minds in Congress to lead
Kansas City StarEditorial
Monday, September 26, 2011
Americans are sick of name-calling in Washington, disgusted by a dysfunctional Congress and waiting for compromises on key tax and spending issues that will help get the U.S. economy back on track.
So are, it turns out, congressmen Kevin Yoder and Emanuel Cleaver.
With another reckless government shutdown looming this week, Yoder and Cleaver spent 80 minutes Monday doing something unusual.
The two men — Republican Yoder from Kansas and Democrat Cleaver from Missouri — held a civil discussion about a few hot political issues at a Union Station forum sponsored by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. It was exactly the kind of level-headed conversation that ought to be happening every day in Washington among those sent there to set priorities and manage billions of taxpayer dollars.
No, Yoder didn’t agree to big tax increases on the rich. Cleaver didn’t promise to slash entitlement spending. Both stuck to their core partisan positions.
But it was how they disagreed that was so noticeable, with no finger-pointing or sound bites about the supposed evilness of the other political party. Take Cleaver’s comment on the Republican speaker of the House: “I actually like John Boehner.”
Even more encouraging: They also agreed on a few key issues:
•The country needs to spend more to rebuild its highways, bridges and other important infrastructure.
•Banking regulations have gone too far in restricting loans, especially by smaller community banks across the country.
•The federal government shouldn’t dictate to local school boards how to educate their students.
•And, above all else, the gutter-level discourse by politicians in Washington must be changed to help bring about the possibility of needed compromises on crucial issues.
Yoder, in his first term, said he had never seen such meanspirited personal attacks by elected officials while serving in the Kansas Legislature. Cleaver noted that on a day he was expected to follow a Democratic talking point on the House floor and promote job-creating bills, he instead bemoaned the rude behavior of so many of his colleagues.
The posturing by so many officials in Washington has blocked needed progress in the last few years. Cleaver and Yoder have shown there’s another way to discuss issues, in a mature and calm style. That’s something others in Congress should emulate, especially when this nation’s economy is hanging by a thread.