A New Tone For A New Congress? Legislators return to Capitol Hill on Tuesday in a political climate shaped by the shootings in Arizona. Kasie Hunt, national political reporter for Politico, discusses whether that will lead to change in the new Congress.
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A New Tone For A New Congress?

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A New Tone For A New Congress?

A New Tone For A New Congress?

A New Tone For A New Congress?

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Legislators return to Capitol Hill on Tuesday in a political climate shaped by the shootings in Arizona. Kasie Hunt, national political reporter for Politico, discusses whether that will lead to change in the new Congress.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

So seven hours of debate on the health care bill starting tomorrow, and one question is: Will the tone of that debate be different given the calls for greater civility in politics following the shooting rampage in Tucson?

Kasie Hunt with Politico joins me to talk about what to expect in Congress coming up. Kasie, welcome to the program.

Ms. KASIE HUNT (National Political Reporter, Politico): Thanks, Melissa.

BLOCK: And what do you say? Will we be hearing a different tone in this debate on health care and debates going forward?

Ms. HUNT: Well, you know, it remains to be seen. I mean, we've seen numbers of violent incidents like that throughout the course of our history, and I think people have continued to complain about the tone in Washington.

That said, you know, we've already seen Speaker Boehner, who is obviously the new speaker of the House, sort of change his rhetoric a little bit around this bill that's supposed to repeal, quote-unquote, "Obamacare."

Instead of calling it job-killing legislation, he put a post up on his blog on the Internet, and it says, instead, job-destroying legislation. It uses other euphemisms, aside from killing.

BLOCK: You think destroying is more civil than killing?

Ms. HUNT: Well, I mean, I guess it depends on how you characterize exactly what happened in Tucson. But it is a shift from what he was doing before.

BLOCK: We're also hearing about some crossing of the aisle coming up for the president's State of the Union address on January 25th. At least two senators so far have said they will sit side by side - Senator Charles Schumer of New York, the Democrat, and Tom Coburn, a Republican of Oklahoma, will be sitting next to each other - which doesn't usually happen in those speeches. Do you think that's significant? Is it anything more than symbolic, Kasie?

Ms. HUNT: Well, I mean, I think we'll have to see. It's definitely an interesting step, especially coming from those two senators, who are, frankly, two of the champions of partisan rhetoric.

And of course, you know, for folks who watch that - those speeches on TV, you know, you normally see half the chamber stand up and cheer while the other half sits down.

You know, when we come to the State of the Union, we'll see these two guys sitting next to each other from different parties. Typically, the chambers are split, you know, on partisan sides.

And when President Obama addressed both chambers back in September of 2009, Joe Wilson shouted you lie when he discussed immigration portions of that bill.

So, you know, I doubt you'll see any partisan, rancorous outbursts at the State of the Union like have been seen in other speeches of this magnitude.

BLOCK: There was, Kasie, an interesting op-ed piece yesterday by Senator John McCain, President Obama's opponent, of course, in the 2008 presidential election, quite a full-throated defense of the president. He called his speech in Tucson terrific, and here's what he said about President Obama:

I believe he is a patriot, sincerely intent on using his time in office to advance our country's cause. I reject accusations that his policies and beliefs make him unworthy to lead America or are opposed to its founding ideals.

How much do you think John McCain represents the sense of Congress right now?

Ms. HUNT: You know, it's interesting. There have been a lot of folks who have read through that John McCain piece and said, you know, this is the most conciliatory he's been towards Barack Obama since he gave his concession speech back in 2008.

And McCain actually took it upon himself in that piece to say, you know, I am in part responsible for the nasty tone that has pervaded Washington and really stepped up and said, you know, we all bear some responsibility for fixing this.

So I think that he is a very interesting vanguard for leaders on both sides of the aisle in favor of a return to more conciliatory rhetoric.

BLOCK: Kasie Hunt, national political reporter for Politico. Thank you very much.

Ms. HUNT: Thanks, Melissa.

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