Name-calling. Punching back. Finger-pointing. It's what we've come to expect out of Washington.
U.S. Representatives Fred Upton (R-6th District) and Debbie Dingell (D-12th District) are calling for a return to civility and collegiality at the nation's Capitol, and in America more broadly.
They co-authored an op-ed in the Detroit News earlier this year, writing "A vibrant democratic republic depends on vigorous debate — but also recognizes the importance of compromise."
Stateside spoke with Dingell and Upton Wednesday morning ahead of an appearance at the Detroit Economic Club.
Is our country more partisan than before?
Opinion polls show public approval of Congress is at an historic low. A Gallup poll in June found just 20% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing while 75% disapprove. You have to go back 10 years to find a single Gallup poll where Congress’ approval rating was at 30% or above.
Both Upton and Dingell have seen this shift happening in real time. Dingell says she thinks more people across party lines need to commit to having conversations with one another. She adds that she thinks political gerrymandering has played a large part in dividing the nation into partisan camps.
Upton also thinks that Americans need to be reaching across the aisle. He says he represents a district that's incredibly diverse in terms of business groups, agriculture industries, ethnic populations, and topography. And he says that there are many aspects of life, beyond political affiliation, that bring his district together as a community.
“As I have seen, quite a bit, people don’t really care if you have an R or a D for Republican or Democrat next to your name, they just want the job done,” Upton said.
Thoughts on the impeachment inquiry
It has been exactly two weeks since September 18th, when the Washington Post reported that President Trump was the focus of a whistleblower complaint concerning a phone call with a “foreign leader." We now know that foreign leader was Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, and that the President asked him for help investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
While Upton did not vote to support the impeachment inquiry in the House, he says releasing the transcript of President Trump's call with the Ukranian president was the right thing to do. But Upton says there are still questions he'd need answered before he supported an impeachment inquiry.
“It’s too early to judge, it really is," Upton said. "We had a vote last week to table it. I voted with all my Republican [sic], it was a partisan vote. There are a lot of questions that are legitimate that we all are going to want answers to.”
Dingell, on the other hand, says she fully supports the impeachment inquiry, and says that the information coming out of the White House threatens the national security of the nation.
“My job is to protect the national security of this country and to protect the Constitution. I take an oath to do that. We have to follow the rule of law. That is what keeps this democracy together,” she said.
Although they have differing opinions on the impeachment inquiry, both Dingell and Upton are part of a 48-member bipartisan group called the “Problem Solvers” that helped reopen the government last winter and negotiate the southern border budget, among other items.
Upton says that these kinds of bipartisan coalitions work and are influential in engineering legitimate change in Congress and beyond.
This post was written by production assistant Catherine Nouhan