Heard on the Hill: Civil Discourse

Posted May 17, 2011 at 6:29pm

It might have happened a century and a half ago, but the Civil War still comes up in even the most contemporary of lawmaking sessions.

Last week, during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing, the topic veered from funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities to American history.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who chairs the subpanel that oversees the NEH, reminisced about a conversation that he had with a Southern colleague.

Simpson was on a plane with the late Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.), and he was complaining to his colleague about the number of Lincoln Day dinners — Republican fundraisers typically held near Presidents Day — that he had to attend in his home state.

Norwood couldn’t exactly commiserate. After all, he said, Georgia didn’t mark the Great Emancipator’s birthday with the same amount of enthusiasm as other, more northern, states.

“I said, ‘Geez, Charlie. This is 135 years ago. When are you guys going to get over it?’” Simpson recalled. “He just looked at me, serious as could be, said, ‘It’s not over yet.’”