Roberts, Stabenow Show Rare Quality for Today's Washington: Congeniality

Kansas Viewpoint

Field hearing in Wichita shows determination for cooperation between Senate Ag Committee's Chairwoman, ranking Republican

Published on: August 28, 2011
Sens. Pat Roberts and Debbie Stabenow demonstrated a quality in extremely short supply in today's politics in a field hearing in Wichita last Thursday.

They were congenial, respectful of differences of opinion and resolute about working together to come up with the best possible 2012 Farm Bill. And comfortable enough to joke easily.

Roberts said that in the first field hearing on the 2012 Farm Bill on May 31 in Michigan, he learned to appreciate specialty crops.

"Now, I have a Bing cherry every morning with my glass of ethanol," Roberts joked.

Stabenow returned the quip instantly. "And a blueberry chaser," she said. "Don't forget the blueberries."

It was the kind of exchange that reminded me of much happier times in politics, when Roberts, Sen. (then Rep.) Jerry Moran and former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman provided a comedy routine worthy of most professional clubs at the annual Kansas State Fair Farm Bureau legislative briefing.

I remember well the feeling of optimism that it gave me to see the clear signs of friendship among the trio; a friendship that was undamaged by differing political viewpoints or conflicting beliefs about the right way to approach any number of issues. It gave me the feeling that the right answers were likely to be found.

A similar feeling that at least on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, there is a willingness to work together in the best interest of America's farmers, whether they grow blueberries and cherries or corn, wheat and soybeans came from the hearing.

This time, however, there are background worries that this is a rare exception to the way today's Washington works and no matter what the committee's recommendations, rancor-as-usual may well get in the way of doing the right thing.

I feel very certain that the committee's recommendations will be on target. I have much, much less confidence in the final outcome.