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Capito Establishes Civility Task Force

Concerned that fellow lawmakers too often resort to personal attacks and petty squabbles, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) has announced the creation of a task force aimed at increasing civility among Members.

“I know I’m not alone in feeling we can improve,” Capito said in an interview Tuesday.

The newly established Task Force on the Congress as an Institution, which Capito will head, is intended to serve as a nonpartisan forum for Members to discuss improving civility, as well as other topics including continuity of government and House and Senate relations.

“The discouraging thing is I think we all have great respect for the institution, but it ends at respect for the institution and doesn’t continue to respect for the individual and respect for their position,” Capito said, later adding: “I think it’s getting worse.”

Although some specifics, including membership, are still being finalized, Capito said the group plans to encourage lawmakers to “find a better way to frame debate” and raise awareness throughout the entire chamber.

The West Virginian is taking on the project at the behest of House Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.), whose panel will oversee the task force.

Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter (N.Y.), the Rules Committee’s ranking member, is also expected to participate in the task force.

Capito’s call for civility in the House is the second such appeal since the 109th Congress convened just a few weeks ago.

Earlier this month, Reps. Timothy Johnson (R-Ill.) and Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) announced the creation of the Center Aisle Caucus, a bipartisan group dedicated to promoting mutual respect among Members and generally improving decorum in the chamber. They are scheduled to formally launch the group today.

In creating the caucus, Johnson and Israel consulted former Rep. David Skaggs (D-Colo.), the originator of the now-defunct bipartisan retreat, which had aimed to improve relations between Members.

In an interview Tuesday, Israel praised the creation of a second group focused on civility, noting: “I think this is fantastic, this gives us a powerful sense of momentum.”

“There’s something stirring out there when you have Bill Clinton at the dedication of his library urging the country to be less partisan, and then you have [former Democratic Speaker] Tom Foley [Wash.] and [former Republican Minority Leader] Bob Michel [Ill.] both endorsing our Center Aisle Caucus, and then you have David Dreier and Congresswoman Capito agreeing with us, that tells me that this thing is moving fast,” Israel added.

It is not yet clear how much the two groups will overlap in their efforts, but Capito said the task force would be willing to work with the caucus to improve relations.

“I think the more the merrier,” Capito said. “Obviously they recognize the importance of this issue.”

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