Michigan lawmakers look to a less-toxic future in Congress

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Michigan Reps. Fred Upton and Debbie Dingell on Sunday said they both still have hope for cooperation in Congress despite a “pretty toxic” political culture.

“I have a lot of friends on the other side and what we need to do is to all of us, get back to just remembering how much we have in common, just respecting each other, treating each other with dignity, said Dingell, a Democrat,” speaking to host Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“I mean, if we don't work together, we're not going to get this thing solved,” said Upton, a Republican, discussing the need for cooperation in confronting the Covid-19 pandemic.

But both lawmakers, who are close friends, noted that the current situation, in and out of Washington, is quite ugly.

“The tone gets, you know, tougher and tougher. It is a pretty toxic place. I've never seen anything like this before,” said Upton, who was first elected in 1986. He lamented that some Republican members of Congress seem intent on whitewashing the “real and shocking” events of Jan. 6 at the Capitol.

Dingell came to Congress in 2015, following in the footsteps of her husband and his father. She found herself as the target of former President Donald Trump’s ire, leading to vicious messages from his supporters.

“Once you're in that Trump hate tunnel, you kind of don't escape it,” she said, adding that she received “several” hateful voicemails per week.

Both saw a role model for better behavior in Washington in former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, who died earlier in December at the age of 98. Upton said he had worked in Dole’s office, and Dingell noted that Dole and her late husband, John Dingell, were World War II veterans who cooperated on various issues during their long years in Congress.

“He had wonderful relationships with either Republicans or Democrats sitting down at the White House, or certainly with his colleagues in both the House and the Senate,” Upton said of Dole.

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