House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) (L) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) walk together to a meeting of the House Republican Caucus to discuss the Senate's legislation that is supposed to blunt the effects of the 'fiscal cliff' during a rare New Year's Day session January 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) negotiated the deal that produced The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which passed the Senate after mid
MINNEAPOLIS -- With a holiday cliffhanger now history, one might assume the U.S. Congress is enjoying a positive image makeover.
On a recent stroll down Nicollet Mall, KARE 11 heard any number of adjectives being used to describe the current Congress; not one of them was positive.
Among the one-word descriptions: inept, despicable, frustrating, difficult, angry and unacceptable.
And the end doesn't seem near -- in terms of either the division or the criticism -- with talks related to the debt ceiling and Hurricane Sandy aid still on the horizon.
"Party extremists is what it is. You have people that are so set in their beliefs that they are not willing to compromise," said Prof. Jay Kiedrowski, a senior fellow with the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Kiedrowski admits that party polarization is not likely to go away any time soon -- not with congressional districts that strongly favor one party over the other.
"People know they can take hard positions, go home, and their constituents will like it. They don't have to compromise," Kiedrowski said.
But that position only hurts the country, Kiedrowski said, and so the professor -- whose doctorate is in leadership -- recommends lawmakers go back to the basics... of friendship.
"Senator McConnell got ahold of Vice President Biden because they were old friends from the senate... That was a case where friendship mattered. So to the extent that they can have more ability to become friends with their enemies, if you will, if they can walk in their colleagues' shoes and understand the pressures that they face, then I think there may be a better opportunity for negotiating positive outcomes," he said.
Kiedrowski hopes lawmakers consider their role to "serve the country" -- not partisan ideals. And he believes citizens also have a responsibility.
"We need to demand that our representatives work in a bipartisan basis to try and reach solutions that are good for all the American public," he said.
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