Print Friendly and PDF

Michigan Cooperating Across the Aisle

Dawson Bell  

Members of Michigan’s Congressional Delegation and former governor Rick Snyder pitch for funding the Soo Locks.











It may sometimes seem like Washington D. C. has become a free-fire zone for partisan warfare, where defeating political opponents takes priority over problem solving. But for most members of Congress from the Michigan delegation, civil discourse and bipartisanship are both useful and necessary to achieving progress and unifying the country.   

The Detroiter talked to four of them — Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and Republican Reps. Jack Bergman and Paul Mitchell — in advance of their appearance on a panel to discuss bipartisan problem solving at the 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference.   

Gary Peters – U.S. Senator (D-MI)

Debbie Stabenow – U.S. Senator (D-MI)

Paul Mitchell – U.S. Representative (R-MI 10)

Jack Bergman – U.S. Representative (R-MI 1)















What opportunities do you see for bipartisan solutions in the current session of Congress?  

Sen. Peters: I’m always willing to work with anyone, regardless of party, if it’s good for Michigan. Repair and expansion of the Soo Locks isn’t just a Michigan issue…a shutdown of the Locks can plunge the nation into recession. I’ve long advocated for funds to finish this project and I’m pleased the Trump Administration has proposed dedicated funding to ensure this project is finished.   

Rep. Mitchell: The Michigan delegation has a long history of bipartisan support for protecting the Great Lakes…and for the automotive industry. I’m hopeful we’ll see bipartisan support for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) which will help the auto industry, the Michigan economy, and the American economy. Lastly, I hope we can put people before politics and find a bipartisan comprehensive solution to…looming infrastructure issues.  

Rep. Bergman: Conserving our natural resources, protecting jobs, and ensuring veterans receive the care they’ve earned…these have all been, and should remain, bipartisan in nature.  

Sen. Stabenow: I have made it a priority to work with all members of the delegation to collaborate on important Michigan priorities like defense, Great Lakes, Soo Locks, and infrastructure projects. I have heard people say our delegation works together more than any other state delegation in the country and I think that’s critical.  

What is your advice to colleagues, constituents, and the passionate base in each party on the value of collegiality and cooperation in governing?  

Sen. Peters: Our country faces serious challenges. Michiganders want us to work in a bipartisan way to solve these problems. That’s what I came to Congress to do.  At a time when we lurch from crisis to crisis, we need to come together as Americans and recognize the values that bond us all together. That starts with listening, reaching out, and building relationships to make sure partisan politics don’t overshadow the needs of Michigan families and businesses.  

Rep. Bergman: Working as a team is always better. It’s about more than politics for me; it’s about doing the right thing and finding common ground. We will have disagreements and differences, but at the end of the day we must come together, put politics aside, and do what’s best for our constituents. Governing from any extreme is unrealistic and unhealthy. Finding common ground is the only way forward.  

Rep. Mitchell: Effective dialogue starts with civility and respect between all parties. I was raised that one can disagree without being disagreeable. One doesn’t have to disrespect someone just because one disagrees with their opinion.   

Sen. Stabenow: It’s most important in today’s divisive world that we find ways to solve critical problems for the American people so they will have confidence in our democracy. My philosophy is to try to find one area of agreement with a colleague and solve a problem. You can get a lot done if you aren’t focused on who gets the credit!  

This interview was edited for length and clarity. 

Dawson Bell is a veteran Michigan journalist who spent 25 years covering government and politics for the Detroit Free Press.