Institute biennial bipartisan retreats for Members and their families at the start of each Congress.
The divisions that are public on the House floor begin in private. New Member Orientation is divided by party. Likewise, each of the party caucuses have their own separate, yearly retreats. These retreats are essential for building relationships—but right now, the only relationships they are supporting are within their own party. Aside from the rare congressional delegation (CODEL) trips, Members have few opportunities to interact with and get to know their colleagues across the aisle. Jason Grumet, Founder and President of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), testified to the Committee on September 26, 2019 about the importance of bipartisan trips to establish personal relationships:
“People have talked about trips, CODELs, field hearings. Cannot overstate the importance of that at this moment. You know, it is the 15-hour flight to Kazakhstan when you realize you both have hip pain, you love the show Succession, you root for hockey… Those are the threads of humanity that actually join regular people together.”
Jason Grumet, September 26, 2019
The Committee recommends Congress establish bipartisan, biennial retreats at the beginning of each Congress. These retreats should be not only bipartisan but also include Member’s families. Reflecting on his own experience with bipartisan retreats, former Representative and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood (IL-18) testified during the same September 26 hearing:
Image 2.4: Former Secretary of Transportation and Representative Ray LaHood testifies before the Select Committee.
“As a result of that [retreat], people really came away with the idea that they knew their colleagues better than they did before. They knew their families, which they had not known before. You know, it is pretty hard to trash somebody on the other side when you know their spouse or you know their kids.”
Former Rep. Ray LaHood, September 26, 2019
Members have few opportunities to interact across party lines, away from Washington, D.C. This lack of interaction across party lines discourages Members from getting to know their colleagues and from working collaboratively and building bipartisan coalitions. These retreats would encourage Members to make connections with their colleagues, find common ground, and help build civility into House processes. Personal relationships build trust, which is necessary for effective lawmaking in a polarized environment.