We've got to work together

Every month, the Bennington chapter of Rotary International meets at The Grille at Mount Anthony Country Club. They sing, sit down to lunch, they share accomplishments and good news with the contribution of "happy dollars," they attend to club business and they hear from a speaker.

One of the things they do is recite the "four-way test" that's at the heart of the organization's behavioral standard: "Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?"

It just so happened on Friday that U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) was in the audience, and he seized on that bit of tradition in his remarks about promoting problem-solving over partisanship. He said he was particularly taken by the last of those four questions: "Will it be beneficial to all concerned?"

That's what Congress should be all about, Welch said.

Welch is part of a Congressional effort in Washington to break the partisan deadlock that has been created by gerrymandering, big money and spineless partisanship that puts party over country, and loyalty over sanity. He said there's a bipartisan coalition working in the House to support the bill offered by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) that would rescue the Affordable Care Act subsidies which President Donald Trump unilaterally cancelled.

Crossing the aisle to together for a common goal rather than adhering to ride or die partisanship "allows you to step back and have some humility," Welch said.

Welch pointed out that when he was in the state Senate, he appointed then-Sen. Phil Scott to the chairmanship of an important committee, despite the fact that the Democrats controlled the body and Scott was a Republican.

When Welch tells that story in Washington, he says, people assume he's either just a really nice guy or a bit crazy.

"It has nothing to do with being a nice guy," he said. "It was about getting things done."

"Unless we get the Congress to work," he said, "we're not going to make progress."

Congress has been mostly broken for the better part of the past 20 years, and fully dysfunctional ever since Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky declared that it was his party's job to make sure President Barack Obama failed. The leadership vacuum was a problem when Obama was in the White House; it's a full-blown crisis now that Trump is making it up as he goes on Twitter. Our nation is badly in need of someone who can unite a divided populace; instead, our leaders encourage division and deflect our attention from what's important.

Here in Vermont, where there are only 625,000 of us, we tend to work together to solve problems because there aren't enough of us to do it any other way. Is it perfect? No, and sometimes it gets messy. But at least we're aware of our issues and talking to each other about how to fix them, even if we can't agree all the time. We compromise, we make progress, we move forward.

Congress could learn a thing or two from that. And to that effort we're pleased that Welch is pushing for a return to sanity.


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