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OUR OPINION: Legislators, it’s time to get to work

January 8, 2023 at 3:20 a.m.

"You can disagree without being disagreeable," the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said.

Ginsburg exemplified that sentiment in her decades-long friendship with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, her ideological foil and colleague. They didn't hesitate to criticize each other's legal opinions, yet they had a genuine affection for one another.

The U.S. House would be well to heed the late justice's advice and follow her example.

As of this writing, the U.S. House has been trying for four days to elect a speaker to lead the chamber. But a divided Republican Party has denied party leader Kevin McCarthy enough GOP votes to seize the chamber's gavel.

McCarthy's foes and supporters are locked in a stalemate, preventing the House from formally opening the new session, and in essence, shutting down Congress.

His foes, who call themselves the Freedom Caucus, question his worthiness to lead and are seeking ways to shrink the power of the speaker's office, while giving rank-and-file lawmakers more influence.

The conflict has obstructed all work of the chamber, as its members are focused more on grandstanding than effecting real change.

Sounds sort of familiar, doesn't it?

Throughout the 2022 session of the Missouri General Assembly, seven state senators -- dubbed the Conservative Caucus -- complained their priorities had been trampled upon, while the majority of the GOP caucus accused the seven of disrupting so many work days that the Senate locked up on almost every bill that was brought up.

Conflicts are always going to exist. Frankly, some people love conflict, and some avoid it at all cost. But conflicts and disagreements don't always have to be destructive.

Disagreements should be the start of the discussion, not the end of it. Conflicts can deepen our understanding of the other's position; they shouldn't be used to harden our stances.

The contrast to what is happening now in Congress and occurred last year in the Missouri Senate is the 102nd Legislative Session of the General Assembly.

In its opening days of this session, Missouri legislators promised a more productive approach to governing.

While both sides of the aisle laid out sometimes divergent plans on some issues facing the state, they also agreed there are major areas where they are on the same page and suggested those should be priorities for action.

Again, it's OK to disagree; just don't be disagreeable.

Newly minted state Sen. Travis Fitzwater may have said it best, "They (Missourians) want us to come down here not to fight and not govern, they want us to come down here and get things accomplished. I'm cautiously optimistic. We just have to get to work."

Legislators were offered a clear path on how to achieve that goal.

At the 18th annual prayer service and breakfast for government leaders at Concord Baptist Church, Lincoln University President John Moseley offered this sage advice: Look beyond party affiliation and "understand that we have a lot more in common than the world often wants us to acknowledge."

Seek first to understand before being understood, he told them.

Wise advice, indeed.

Now, let's get to work.

-- News Tribune

Print Headline: Legislators, it’s time to get to work


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