Weekly Columns

As of January 20 at noon, the executive branch of the United States government is now headed by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. As with any new administration, we congratulate and pray for them as they embark on this journey of leadership during a very difficult time for our country.

I also pledge to work together with them on the issues where we can find agreement, but I know both sides will continue to maintain the courage of our convictions – especially on the tough, but important, issues that our country faces today and in the future. 

In his inaugural address, President Biden implored the nation to unite and heal by practicing empathy and respect. I concur on the need to renew our efforts on those fronts, and believe we should always treat each other with dignity and grace. I’m fond of the reminder to disagree without being disagreeable.

Indeed, there are even policy areas where I believe we can find common ground.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine distributed and administered, helping support the individuals and businesses decimated by the economic impact of the virus, working on shared priorities like sensible investments to modernize and improve America’s aging infrastructure and address the lack of broadband internet access in many rural areas –– these are just a few examples of places where I think there might be a will and way to achieve significant results.

In my role in the Senate, I will have an opportunity to work across the aisle on some of the issues I’ve spent years learning about and working to make progress on. As the top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, I will help my counterpart Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and this new administration support our farmers and ranchers, producers and rural America through a variety of policy efforts. 

Likewise, as a longtime member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I recognize how much more work there is to be done to deliver on the promises made to America’s former service members. Ensuring they receive the services and benefits they have earned is a mission I will eagerly work to accomplish with my colleagues across the aisle and at the Department of Veterans Affairs. I believe the president appreciates the magnitude of this responsibility and will work with us to advance solutions and reforms that are needed. 

But unity cannot come at the expense of first principles and deeply-held convictions. And it must not mean stampeding through Congress or the culture to silence and sideline those who might disagree on any given issue, but especially the most important ones.

Calls to abolish the legislative filibuster risk poisoning any earnest attempts at bipartisan collaboration. Similarly, on day one of his administration the president signed a number of executive orders on consequential, highly-polarized subjects which threaten to undermine his own stated intentions to work cooperatively with Congress and get buy-in from the very Americans who did not vote for him.

Taking unilateral action on his first day in office to rejoin the Paris climate accords, cancel the Keystone XL pipeline project, make sweeping changes to immigration enforcement policies and once again empower bureaucrats to impose heavy-handed regulations is not the way to start a productive relationship between the president and congressional Republicans, or win the trust of our constituents.

I will always do my part to foster unity and comity in the halls of the Senate and elsewhere. Yet I would also encourage the president and his administration to do the same – not just with words and symbolic gestures, but with meaningful action or, perhaps even more appropriately, restraint. There is much work to be done.