FSU’s Institute of Politics: Policy Making in the 117th Congress

The post is based on a webinar sponsored by the Institute of Politics at Florida State University.

The Institute of Politics at Florida State University presents Representative Neal Dunn (R-FL) and Representative Al Lawson (D-FL). Dunn and Lawson engage in discussions on the upcoming 117th Congress and how to best navigate lawmaking in these polarizing times. This webinar is part of the college’s celebrating civility series. While much of the discourse and representation online and in the media center around the inability of political parties to compromise with one another, this seminar is meant to better highlight the importance of working together moving forward.

Dunn is the representative for Florida’s 2nd congressional district and is a Republican. He has served since Jan 3, 2017. Dunn is next up for reelection in 2022 and serves until Jan 3, 2023

Lawson is the representative for Florida’s 5th congressional district and is a Democrat. He has served since Jan 3, 2017. Lawson is next up for reelection in 2022 and serves until Jan 3, 2023.

Q: Is compromise important? And if so, why?
A (Lawson): It’s very important for the good of your constituents to make sure that when everything is debated, you can come to a compromise. Serving in the Florida Legislature for many years on the Republican House, Republican Senate, and Republican Governors. There was a lot of work that needed to be done between parties to bring everyone together. At this point, I’m used to compromising and I’m able to work well with my colleagues on both sides. Oftentimes, we are not going to agree, but we are not disagreeable. It’s important because we want to do the best that we can for our constituents.
A (Dunn): Anyone who gets any significant legislation passed understands the value of compromise. The parties are not monolithic ideological entities. Even with a lopsided majority, you are going to lose your ability to control your legislation from your own party’s extremists, if you can’t compromise on both sides. So, in a congress as narrowly divided as ours is and a senate that’s even closer, I think compromise is likely to become a very valuable asset in the near future.

Q: Is civility important?
A (Dunn): I think civility is the only thing that underpins civilization. Without civility, we become primitive warring tribes. And the only alternatives to us then become the abject surrender of our rights, or real war. And I’ve seen war up close. Civility is important.
A (Lawson): It’s very important. You want members to get along with each other and have the freedom to express themselves. Civility brings people together and shows others that you have the ability to get along with other people.

Q: How will you in the future go about identifying the types of issues you can work with people outside of your political party on?
A (Dunn): COVID-19 is a great example of an issue that dramatically impacted everybody. Everyone got hurt by the pandemic and by the lockdowns, so we knew we had to do something and neither of us, in these long series of negotiations got everything we wanted. We’re willing to compromise to get relief to the people in a timely fashion.

Q: Given that you’re currently a part of the majority in the house right now, does the reality that you might be in the minority after this next election affect how you conduct legislative business when you do have the majority?
A (Lawson): I might be a little different than most with my answer to this question. What makes something good legislation is when the two parties are closer and that’s what we have now. It lends itself to more compromise and more people to try to work together. When I was in the Florida Legislature, the Democrats had been in control for 125 years until those numbers moved closer together. I’m concerned about how the majority could affect policies put forth by Dunn because those are my people, too.

The discussion was moderated by FSU assistant professor of political science, Dr. Whyman. You can learn more about Dr. Whyman here.

The post is based on a webinar sponsored by the Institute of Politics at Florida State University.

The feature image is from Pexels.

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