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Representative for Oregon's 5th district addresses LO Rotary on his effort to bring civility back to Congress

PMG PHOTO: SAM STITES - Rep. Kurt Schrader addresses the Rotary Club of Lake Oswego Monday, Aug. 19. Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader made a brief stop in Lake Oswego Monday, where he took time to chat with members of the Rotary Club of Lake Oswego on issues of local and national importance.

Schrader, a Democrat representing Oregon's 5th district, spoke about building consensus in a time where rhetoric and personal attacks have polarized American politics to a proverbial point of no return.

For Schrader, navigating these issues within Congress isn't easy, but in an attempt to show good faith, he's spent these past several months working hard to gain bipartisan support on all the bills he has co-sponsored.

"Congress isn't as bad as the media makes it out to be," he said. "There is a group of people who are pro-civility, and we're called the problem solvers. We're made up of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, and in fact, I've been beaten up and espoused for being a part of that group."

Schrader said that his involvement in this particular caucus is a reflection of his frustration with how politics is currently playing out in Congress. He stood with caucus members in demanding Speaker Nancy Pelosi be held to certain parameters before returning to majority leadership in a rules package passed in January. That package also stated that if a bill has 290 co-sponsors, it will automatically be up for consideration in committee and have a path to the House floor.

PMG PHOTO: SAM STITES - Recent LOHS graduate and U.S. Presidential Scholar Anushka Nair (left) meets Congressman Kurt Schrader at Rotary Club of Lake Oswego's meeting on Monday, Aug. 19.

"There are many cases where a lot of good bills have overwhelming numbers of co-sponsors and support, 220, 230, 290, 300 sponsors, and yet you can't get the bill on the floor," Schrader said. "So we passed this resolution and the Speaker agreed: If you get 290 folks behind a bill, then that bill will get floor time and your representatives will have the chance to represent you, not some party or political agenda."

Just this past month, Schrader — a longtime local horse veterinarian — used that provision to get a bill passed that bans certain types of inhumane techniques used to train show horses.

"We're trying to democratize and put a little more civility in the U.S. Congress," he said.

According to Schrader, his caucus is also keeping an eye on what's transpiring along the U.S.-Mexico border where families seeking asylum are being detained and separated.

Sixteen of those caucus members including Schrader visited the border last month to see for themselves the conditions and practices being employed by U.S. border agents.

"There's all this hyperbole about the border. You say one word and you're instantly labeled such and such," Schrader said. "We figured let's go see for ourselves, and it wasn't pretty. It defies logic that we haven't done anything at all."

According to Schrader, at the end of June the House passed a $4.5 billion aid package to improve conditions at the border and hire more court staff and judges to speed up the asylum process for those seeking to enter the country.

"We want to make sure the facilities are humane and the border is safe and secure," he said. "Both bills, in the Senate and in the House, were bipartisan. The Senate passed theirs first, something like 85-15, that doesn't happen everyday in Congress. That's overwhelmingly bipartisan."

At multiple points in his address to the Rotary Club, Schrader expressed dismay over the way that Congressional politics are portrayed. He suggested that the media makes it out that there are only three or four members of the House, when in fact the House has 435 individual legislators with wildly varying ideas and convictions.

"Most of us keep our head down and just try to get the job done, and that's across the country, it doesn't matter what region they come from," he said. "The press is vilifying everything that people are doing. I just ask you to be reminded there are a lot of folks, including here in Lake Oswego and across the great state of Oregon, who are committed to doing the right thing."

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