Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) “called Tuesday for Congress to come together for the good of the country in the wake of the shooting rampage in Arizona as he outlined a broad bipartisan agenda,” Roll Call reports.
The Vermont Democrat asked lawmakers to tone down the rhetoric and exercise self-restraint in the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and others. “Things changed over the weekend,” Leahy said at the Newseum. The events “call us to pause and reflect over the promise of our democracy.”
Rhetoric and symbolism demonizing political opponents has gone too far, Leahy said. “Our politics has become incendiary … and we all have responsibility for lowering the temperature,” he said.
The event should not be exploited for partisan gain, the Vermont Democrat said. “Let’s not get a tragedy mixed up in politics,” he added.
On his agenda:
The Judiciary chairman said he hopes to work with his panel’s ranking member, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), on a broad agenda. “We know the value of bipartisanship and civility,” Leahy said.
He and Grassley already plan to work together on issues such as anti-fraud, protection of intellectual property and patent reform, he said, and he has already started working with House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas).
Leahy said immigration issues such as agriculture jobs and H-2A visas would be on the agenda, as well as repealing the antitrust exemption for health insurance companies; upgrading national security, cyber-security and privacy laws; and strengthening the Freedom of Information Act.
One item that Leahy didn’t mention as a priority was gun control. When asked about it, he said there will be efforts by some to pass gun control bills, “but I don’t know that much will change.”
The Judiciary chairman also issued a plea to his colleagues to help streamline the process for confirming federal judges. President George W. Bush had about twice the number of nominees approved by a Democratic Senate in his first two years as President Barack Obama, Leahy said. “You’ve got good men and women who are willing to serve. Let them do that,” he said.