Paris Post-Intelligencer: Compromise style works in Congress

Alexander, Corker show how it’s done

Posted on April 20, 2015

Tennessee can be proud of its two senators.

Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker are leaders in the Republican organization that runs Washington these days, but their style is not the in-your-face domination seen too often in the nation’s capital.

Instead, both have shown they are adept at the art of compromise, working across the aisle to court support from the minority. That kind of leadership is all too rare in Congress nowadays.

Two events last week showed the effectiveness of this technique, reminiscent of Tennessee’s Howard Baker.

On Tuesday, Corker won a 19-0 vote from the Foreign Relations Committee in support of his proposal to review any nuclear deal with Iran.

Then on Thursday, Alexander’s rewrite of federal education law was approved 22-0 by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

In a note to Corker, Alexander said, “I told him we were 41-0.”

Alexander and Corker are chairmen of those two committees.

Unanimous votes are rare in today’s deeply divided Congress, and these two actions show effective leadership.

Both men could have rammed these actions through to passage on party-line votes, but instead they worked patiently to secure unison action.

“We want to produce results,” Corker said. “And there are significant issues, domestic and international, that have to be dealt with. And when you bring everybody in, the nation is stronger.”

Corker’s bill would require congressional approval for any agreement reached on Iran’s nuclear program. Just before the committee vote, President Barack Obama dropped his veto threat.

The compromise style is much like that of the late Baker, who often showed how to bridge partisan divides and to publicly confront the Republican leadership when it was wrong.

“Howard’s advice was to listen and consult,” Alexander said.

Alexander spent months negotiating with his committee’s top Democrat.

“Almost every senator here, if given the opportunity, would much prefer to work together and get results on an important issue rather than stand around and shout at each other,” Alexander said.

Amen to that.