Getting to Yes: Finding Consensus in a Divided Congress

May 23, 2017

In a polarized, highly partisan Congress, fierce ideological battles often prevent cooperation and compromise. However, bipartisan solutions are often the key to breaking legislative gridlock and achieving lasting reform. In this conversation, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), co-chair of the Tuesday Group, and Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), chair of the New Democrat Coalition, assessed the political and electoral forces shaping today’s policy environment, the “middle” of American politics, and the possibilities that exist to find consensus in a shifting landscape.

This interview with Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) and Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) was conducted by PBS NewsHour's Lisa Desjardins as part of the 2017 Fiscal Summit.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA)

Chairman, Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, U.S. House Committee on Appropriations

Congressman Charlie Dent has served Pennsylvania’s 15th Congressional District since 2005.

Congressman Dent chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and was named chairman of the House Ethics Committee. Charlie was appointed to the Appropriations Committee in 2011. The committee establishes the funding levels for numerous activities, including, national defense, education, federal law enforcement, homeland security, federal biomedical and health-related research, and other government operations.

The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee is responsible for providing funding to support military base construction, operation, maintenance, and troop training. The subcommittee also ensures funding for the Veterans Administration.

The Ethics Committee is tasked with ensuring members of Congress and congressional staff comply with House rules.

Congressman Dent serves as the vice chairman of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee. He is a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.

Charlie serves as a co-chair of the Tuesday Group, a caucus of center-right Republican members focused on fiscal responsibility, a strong national defense, and an affirmative obligation to govern.

Charlie earned a degree in foreign service and international politics from Pennsylvania State University in 1982 and a master’s degree in public administration from Lehigh University in 1993. Before entering public service, he worked as a development officer for Lehigh University and as an industrial electronics salesman. He lives in Allentown with his family: his wife, Pamela, and children — Kathryn, William, and Jack.

Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT)

Chair, New Democrat Coalition; U.S. House Committee on Financial Services; Ranking Member, NSA and Cybersecurity Subcommittee, U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

Jim Himes represents Connecticut’s 4th District in the United States House of Representatives, where he is serving his fifth term. He is a member of the House Committee on Financial Services, serves as the ranking member of the NSA and Cybersecurity Subcommittee of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Rep. Himes also serves as chair of the New Democrat Coalition, a group of 61 forward-thinking Democrats who are committed to pro-economic growth, pro-innovation, and fiscally responsible policies. New Democrats are a solutions-oriented coalition serious about working on policies so that all Americans have the opportunity to compete in the changing economy.

Lisa Desjardins, Correspondent, PBS Newshour

Correspondent, PBS NewsHour

Lisa Desjardins has covered national politics and Capitol Hill for over a decade, with a particular love for following and engaging on large fiscal issues. As a correspondent for PBS NewsHour, Desjardins covered the Trump campaign during the 2016 election cycle and has reported on opportunity and struggle in rural America as part of the broadcast’s “Chasing the Dream” series. Prior to joining NewsHour in October of 2014, Desjardins worked for CNN on Capitol Hill for nearly ten years. Early in her career at WIS-TV, she broke news of the compromise to bring down the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House dome. Desjardins is the recipient of a Peabody Award for CNN’s coverage of the 2008 election and a Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi award for national breaking news for coverage of the Haiti earthquake.


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