Former U.S. representative pushes bipartisan congress
By Lyle Manion | The Daily Revielle - 3/6/2014
Division within Congress over time has made compromise a rare occurrence, said Rodney Alexander, former U.S. representative of Louisiana’s 5th district.
Alexander attended a meeting Thursday for Common Sense Action, a student organization that advocates for bipartisanship in government.
Alexander represented Louisiana from Jan. 3, 2003, to Sep. 27, 2013. He said he stepped down because he no longer wanted to be part of the problem Congress was becoming.
Criticism within and between parties was a large part of this problem, Alexander said.
“Someone asked me why nobody likes us,” Alexander said. “I responded, ‘We don’t even like us.’
Republicans and Democrats are in constant opposition, seemingly uninterested in compromise, Alexander said. Each party has its own podium to speak at and cloak rooms to converse in. Furthermore, the two parties no longer meet on a regular basis.
Alexander said clashes within parties further lower chances for compromise. He said he often experienced this because he tended to base his voting on his constituents’ wishes. During his years as a Democrat, colleagues criticized Alexander for voting in favor of Bush tax cuts and oil drilling in Alaska. On the other hand, his fellow Republicans in later years deemed him a “spender” for advocating hurricane relief in Louisiana.
Alexander said another issue plaguing Congress is its size.
“One of the biggest mistakes congress ever made was allowing the House to grow to 435 members,” Alexander said, claiming the number of representatives prevented him from knowing everyone on the floor.
Throughout his speech, Alexander maintained he acted for his constituents. He said Nancy Pelosi once asked him to change his vote, saying it would be good for his place in Washington D.C. He responded, “What about the people at home?”
Alexander acknowledged he sometimes voted outside of his beliefs because of this principle, but he holds that voting in a completely partisan manner is halting progress. Ultimately, Alexander said his vision of a perfect Congress is one that acts for its nation.
“When you enter the chamber to vote, there are workers at the door giving you a slip explaining the Republican stance and another explaining the Democrat’s stance,” he said. “My question is where is the American slip?”
Alexander now serves as secretary for the Louisiana Department of Veteran’s Affairs.