Brief Bipartisanship On The Hill

A touching event took place in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall last night that returned the participants and the audience to a long-gone era of bipartisan respect and collegiality.

Former House Speaker Tom Foley, a Washington Democrat, accepted the 2007 Freedom Award from the board of trustees of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society. He was joined on stage by Rep. Bob Michel, an Illinois Republican who served as House minority leader when Foley was speaker. The friendship and deep mutual admiration these two men share are no longer in evidence between the leadership of the two parties running Congress today. And it's sad.

Michel reminisced that on his last day in office, Foley approached him with a special honor. In his 38 years in Congress, Michel had never chaired a committee or subcommittee, having been in the minority during his entire tenure. So Foley asked Michel to open the House floor proceedings on his last day, a privilege usually reserved for a member of the majority party. It was vintage bipartisan cooperation.

Earlier in the day, I attended Democratic Congressional Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel's media briefing. Reporters grilled him about last-minute budget negotiations between the Democratic Congress and President Bush. He said several times that if the president would cooperate and compromise, rather than complain and criticize, negotiations would be completed much sooner. Ah, to go back to the bipartisan era!

By Bonnie Erbe