N.H. Odd Couples: Annie Kuster and Jackie Walorski
Before being sworn into Congress in January, I sparked up an unlikely friendship with a fellow new representative named Jackie Walorski. At first glance, Walorski and I aren’t natural political allies. She’s a Republican from Indiana. I’m a Democrat from New Hampshire. We disagree on a whole host of issues. But during an orientation session for incoming members of Congress, she and I discovered a shared passion for addressing the epidemic of sexual assault in the military – and we decided to do something about it.
After consulting with experts and convening briefings on the issue, we worked on a bill that would strengthen whistle-blower protections for service members who report sexual assaults. Once Walorski introduced the bill, we both reached out to our colleagues to drum up bipartisan support, and at the end of the day – at a time when it feels like Congress is incapable of agreeing on anything – the bill unanimously passed the House and hopefully will pass the Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act reauthorization.
Our effort is a small example, but it points to a larger lesson. Yes, Republicans and Democrats have significant differences. Yes, we should vigorously debate those differences and stay true to our principles. But rather than demonize one another or fixate on what divides us, we should earnestly reach for common ground and make progress wherever we can. The fact that we don’t agree on everything simply cannot become an excuse for not accomplishing anything.
That’s an attitude Rep. Jackie Walorski and I share, and it’s an approach that we could use a lot more of in Congress.
(U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster represents New Hampshire’s 2nd District.)