Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings visited each other's districts in hopes of creating a better understanding of the varied needs of the constituents of each and forging a spirit of bipartisan cooperation in Congress.
Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" it made him more "sensitive" to visit Chaffetz's Utah district. He also thought Chaffetz had a similar experience when he hosted him in his Maryland district earlier this summer.
Chaffetz, who is a contender to assume the chair of the Oversight Committee, told "Morning Joe" he wanted to forge a bipartisan relationship with Cummings because of the importance of passing legislation in Congress.
"I'm pretty good at throwing political barbs. I guess we all do, in one sense. But, I actually want to get some stuff done," Chaffetz said Tuesday. "If we're actually going to pass some legislation that's going to be meaningful, it's going to have to be bipartisan. So, you better darn well reach out, get out of your comfort zone, and actually just don't throw political barbs, but actually do something," he added.
Earlier this summer, Chaffetz visited Cummings' Baltimore district where he saw some of the problems urban residents face, including crime, unemployment and poverty. The visit was the first by Chaffetz to the areas of Baltimore that are off the tourist trail, reported The Salt Lake Tribune
Cummings visited the expansive district around Provo, Utah, that Chaffetz represents when he traveled there on Aug. 4. The visit included a trip along the Colorado River and flying over the mesa country of the state, reported The Salt Lake Tribune
"I got to tell you that, you know, they have their sets of issues that they've got to deal with, and (they) made me a lot more sensitive to what they are dealing with. I'm pretty sure, as I watched him in my district talking to people there, that I believe it sensitized him to the things I'm dealing with. And, hopefully, that will lead to compromise and help us to work out some problems," Cummings said Tuesday.
The relationship between Cummings and California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, current chairman of the Oversight Committee, has been sometimes icy, sometimes overtly contentious. The friction was evident in March during a hearing where the committee attempted to question former IRS employee Lois Lerner.
Cummings tried to speak after Issa adjourned the hearing, at which time he blasted the chairman and called the proceedings "un-American." The back and forth continued after the hearing in separate press interviews with Issa and Cummings
Chaffetz said it made it easier to see what people had in common to "break bread with somebody, actually look them in the eye and shake their hand." He said his discussions with Cummings emphasized the need not just to find "common ground," but for Republicans and Democrats to find "higher ground."
Cummings agreed that the two parties should "get away from throwing the bombs" and work to "concentrate on what we're fighting for."
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