Civility's Place Is in the Senate and the House

The weather is getting a bit warm in Washington as July rumbles into August, and tempers in the Capitol are heating up as well. In a rare Sunday session of the United States Senate, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who also serves as president pro tempore, took the time to remind his colleagues of where they are, and of why they are there in the first place. While he was speaking directly to his Senate colleagues, his words have application in all our daily lives.

Senator Hatch noted the Standing Rules of the Senate which govern decorum on the Senate floor. Rule XIX, paragraph II, notes that "No Senator in debate shall directly or indirectly by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator. "

Passing legislation is not an easy task and the old saying that the two things you don't ever wish to see being made are sausages and laws, still rings true. After all, whether you are debating ways to lower the deficit, provide health care for children or changing tax laws, there will always be people on both sides of the issue who feel equally passionate. But as Senator Hatch noted "... we treat each other with courtesy and respect because it is the honorable thing to do," and because "we do not become enemies, we remain colleagues."

We want and need passionate lawmakers who truly care about improving the lives of all Americans regardless of whether they are debating the Farm bill, tax reform or ways to make it easier for small businesses to obtain loans. But passion for an issue or approach does not require one to toss aside the rules of civility. Surely a group of adults can argue and swap facts and ideas without turning the debate into a school yard brawl?

When members of the House or Senate, the city council or the school board resort to name-calling and questioning the character of those who disagree with them, nothing useful comes of it. Not only will the issue of the day be lost to the brawl of words, but the example set for tomorrow's leaders is the wrong one. "It is a sacred trust in which pettiness or grandstanding should have no part," as Senator Hatch noted. We need to be showing the next generation that it is through hard work, accommodation, and conciliation that you solve the issues of the day; not through rancor, bullying and name calling.

We should all take heed of Senator Hatch's advice as it is equally applicable to dealing with politicians, business partners, family and friends or the local neighborhood barista. And just to make sure Senator Hatch's advice is heeded, pick up the phone and call your Senators and your Representative and let them know you expect them be respectful and civil even with those with whom they disagree.