Congressional Democrat, Republican Hold Town Hall in Champaign
Republican Congressman Tim Johnson of Urbana took part in an hour-long town hall meeting on Sunday in Champaign with Democratic Congressman Christopher Murphy of Connecticut.
The town hall was meant to demonstrate bipartisanship in Congress, but it is unclear how that will register with voters leading up to the 2012 election.
Murphy is in his third term in Congress, and he is running for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut to replace Joe Lieberman, who is not running for re-election. Murphy said he may not agree with Rep. Johnson on every issue, like the federal health care law, but he said it's important for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground.
"Civility between two members of Congress can lead to civility to a larger public debate," Murphy said. "So, I was thrilled that this meeting was so civil, and it encourages me to put more time into trying to promote that kind of conversation in Washington."
Johnson and Murphy are leaders of the Center Aisle Caucus, which includes Republicans and Democrats who try to show that both parties can come together despite their differences.
Johnson is running for re-election in Illinois' re-drawn 13th Congressional District. He said he is not concerned about the political ramifications that could result because of his efforts to reach across the aisle.
"If cooperation and civility means you lose for re-election, then I'm just going to have to lose for re-election. That's ok. I'm not worried about that," Johnson said.
The roughly 100 people who showed up to the town hall included voters who identify as Independents and Republicans. There were also Democrats there, like 87-year-old Eleanor Ray, who said she plans on supporting Johnson's re-election bid in part because of his willingness to work with Democrats.
"It pleases me very, very much," Ray said. "I think civility is the only path to cooperation in the Congress that's so sorely needed right now."
Some of the topics brought up during the town hall included the war in Afghanistan, the re-authorization of the federal farm bill, and efforts to promote renewable energy.
Johnson said he plans to take part in a similar town hall meeting in Murphy's district in Connecticut.