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Coons, Young Talk Bipartisanship and Foreign Affairs

Chaz Mullis

Finding common political ground was among many topics of conversation during a forum at the University of Notre Dame on Friday, Oct. 27. Notre Dame’s president, John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., invited Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and Senator Todd Young (R-IN) for a discussion about cultivating civility and bipartisanship in a time of polarization and gridlock.

The conversation was a keynote event for this year’s Notre Dame Forum, the theme of which centered around the future of democracy. Inviting reflection and dialogue across different disciplines on the rising threats to global democracy was stated as the goal for the forum, according to the Notre Dame Forum website.

“Within our university and beyond, Father Jenkins has called for civil discourse, grounded in the Christian view of others as equally made in the image of God, as a way to find common ground,” said Sarah Mustillo, I.A. O’Shaughnessy Dean of the Notre Dame College of Arts and Letters. “Today’s conversation grows out of these commitments.”

When asked by Father Jenkins about the growing division in the U.S. House of Representatives over the House Speaker, Senator Coons replied that the disconnect in the House is gravely concerning. Nonetheless, he spoke optimistically about the current political climate in the Senate by showing faith in Senator Young. “You are very well represented by a strong and capable legislator,” Coons said. ”Todd has already shown his legislative chops and his willingness to reach across the aisle to [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer and legislate on something strategically important.”

Young responded by commending his friendship with Coons. The two senators have disagreements, but they never fixate on them, said Young. “We try to work through our differences, and when we can’t, we learn to coexist. But we’re always searching for areas of agreement, and that only occurs through candid conversation.”

Young also spoke empathetically of his colleagues in the House who struggled to push legislation rather than engage in self-promotion during the search for a House Speaker.

“We have a responsibility not to use these positions to become celebrities or influencers, but to work through the institutions to serve you.” – Senator Todd Young (R-IN)

These sentiments against self-promotion were echoed by Coons. “Notoriety often produces more political power than rolling up your sleeves and doing the hard work of compromising on legislation,” Coons said. “The only counter to that is having relationships of trust across the aisle with folks who want to get bills passed.”

Young shared at the forum that his bipartisan relationship with Senator Schumer started at the gym. “The first thing I said to Chuck is, ‘Chuck, if you and I see eye-to-eye on this, we’re gonna go through regular order,” said Young. “What we discovered is that when individual committees and open hearings were used and a fair voting process was put in place, it significantly increased trust in the Senate.”

This bipartisanship led to the signing of the landmark CHIPS and Science Act in August. The bill provided $52 billion worth of grants and other incentives for the semiconductor industry, as well as $200 billon for scientific research.

On the topic of foreign affairs, Father Jenkins called on Coons to share his experience as a senior Foreign Relations Committee member. Coons recently joined a bipartisan group of 10 senators who visited Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia do address the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

“The suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza, most of which are children who are not affiliated with Hamas, is a painful counterbalance to the understandable and righteous anger of the Israelis who suffered brutally at the hands of Hamas.” – Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)

Several students in the audience stood and chanted “cease fire now” after Father Jenkins’ closing remarks. These students, representing Student Voices for Palestine, chanted to show solidarity with Palestinians who are suffering during the bombardment and invasion of the Gaza Strip.

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Chaz Mullis
Chaz Mullis, Staff Editor
Big fan of movies, music, hiking, and writing.
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