LaHood, Krishnamoorthi: What happened in Peoria shouldn’t stay in Peoria
Something unusual happened in Peoria on March 28: Two congressmen from opposite parties held a town hall meeting together.
Even more unusual, the meeting didn’t devolve into partisan accusations and insults. It remained a respectful discussion of critical issues facing our country.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that something like this occurred in central Illinois. After all, our native son and greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, memorably called on Americans to follow “the better angels of our nature.” A century later, Republican Senate leader Everett Dirksen of nearby Pekin worked closely with Democratic President Lyndon Johnson to end a filibuster and pass the historic Civil Rights Act.
Peoria’s Bob Michel, the longtime Republican House leader, used to drive back and forth to Washington with his colleague from Chicago, Dan Rostenkowski, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. No doubt, this friendship contributed to their cooperation in passing a landmark tax reform bill in 1986, signed by President Reagan.
Congressman Michel’s successor, Ray LaHood, struck up a close friendship with his Democratic colleague from Chicago, Rahm Emanuel. When Emanuel later became chief of staff for newly elected President Barack Obama, he recommended that LaHood be appointed U.S. Secretary of Transportation. After Emanuel was elected mayor of Chicago, Secretary LaHood worked closely with him to rebuild the city’s aging transit system and ensure the vitality of O’Hare International Airport.
Today, the two of us — Reps. Darin LaHood and Raja Krishnamoorthi — are working to carry on this tradition of bipartisan friendship and cooperation. That’s not to say that we agree on every issue. We don’t. But as another great Illinois statesman, the late Sen. Paul Simon, once instructed, it should be possible to disagree in politics without becoming disagreeable.
So, we are able to disagree respectfully while looking for areas of agreement. For example, we are working together in support of Congressman LaHood’s bill to reorganize the Congress and make it more productive and efficient. That would be good for all the Republicans and Democrats who serve there, and for the millions of Americans they represent.
At the same time, we worked together to pass Congressman Krishnamoorthi’s legislation to modernize and strengthen our nation’s system of career and technical education. If passed by the Senate, that bill could bring good jobs to millions of U.S. workers while helping our country compete in an increasingly high-tech, global economy.
So why are we able to get along across lines of partisanship and geography when so many of our colleagues are constantly fighting? As with so many things in life, we think the answer rests with our parents.
When Raja was growing up in Peoria, his immigrant father, a professor at Bradley University, would constantly praise the greatness of America and encourage his children to contribute to its future. He never focused his praise on one party or ideology. To him, being a good American didn’t depend on one’s partisan leanings.
Similarly, Darin’s father is a proud, lifelong Republican. But that never prevented him from befriending and working with his Democratic colleagues. And it didn’t prevent him from joining the cabinet of a Democratic president.
We take those lessons seriously and have sought to follow them as we work together in Congress. Those who are reading this may be Republicans or Democrats or supporters of neither party. More important than those affiliations, however, is that we are all Americans. We may debate and disagree, because that’s the nature of our democracy. But we should never question the motivation or patriotism of our political opponents.
We hope that our colleagues from across the country will take note of what transpired recently in Peoria, where two members of Congress from different parties met and talked with local residents in an atmosphere of respect and cooperation. This shouldn’t be something as rare as a sighting of Halley’s Comet. It is what our nation deserves as we work to confront our common challenges.
Republican Darin LaHood represents Peoria and the 18th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg represents Illinois’ 8th Congressional District. He grew up in Peoria.