NOEL KING, HOST:
When you look around Washington, D.C., right now, civility may not be the first word that you think of. So it's an interesting time for two members of Congress to receive this high-profile award for their efforts at finding common ground. Here's NPR's congressional reporter Claudia Grisales.
CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Democrat Hakeem Jeffries is a hip-hop fan from Brooklyn, and Republican Doug Collins of rural Georgia favors country music. Collins has adopted his colleagues' favorite musical reference to explain their mutual respect.
DOUG COLLINS: Game recognizes game. This man right here, you want to be - you want to partner with him.
GRISALES: And Jeffries returns the favor.
HAKEEM JEFFRIES: Although I appreciate Doug Collins quoting, you know, one of the philosophical underpinnings of hip-hop, which is game recognizes game, which shows you how much game Doug Collins has at the end of the day.
GRISALES: They easily share laughs, but their business couldn't be more serious. They sit on the House Judiciary Committee, ground zero for a Trump impeachment inquiry. They gathered in Collins' Capitol Hill office for an early celebration of sorts. They'll receive a joint civility prize from Pennsylvania's Allegheny College this morning. They'll follow in the footsteps of national political figures like the late Senator John McCain and former Vice President Joe Biden and Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the late Antonin Scalia. Jeffries and Collins joined the same freshman class of House lawmakers in 2013 and met on the Judiciary panel. And when most people think Democrats and Republicans don't even talk, Jeffries remembers it was Collins who reached out to work together.
JEFFRIES: The fact that we can find common ground captures the attention and the imagination of people both inside the Beltway and outside.
GRISALES: They scored their first legislative win on a bill to protect musicians, but their much tougher work collaboration came with criminal justice reform. Their effort led to a new law shortening sentences for some inmates. Collins gets emotional when he thinks about Matthew Charles, a former drug dealer who was one of the first impacted by the changes after serving more than 20 years in prison.
COLLINS: I cried when Matthew Charles came. And the bill that we did, this man's life is different.
COLLINS: That's what makes this special. That's passionate involvement, not dispassionate politics.
GRISALES: Jeffries nods in agreement and says even though as Trump investigations are dominating Capitol Hill, there's more work they can do together on policy issues that earned them this award.
JEFFRIES: The resiliency and the power of American exceptionalism has always gotten us through prior instances of intense internal conflict, and so I'm confident that the same will happen as we move forward.
GRISALES: They can see the impeachment probe has the potential to tear Congress apart, but they say their bipartisan bond is a testament to how civility can survive in Washington.
Claudia Grisales, NPR News, the Capitol.
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