On 28 February Burbank N Beyond’s John Savageau had the opportunity to interview Representative Adam Schiff from the 29th District, encompassing Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, and surrounding areas, in his Washington D.C. office. This is the second article in a series highlighting activities and topics of interest to Burbank.
Part 2 – Partisan vs. Non-Partisan Politics
BurbankNBeyond: You do more bipartisan work than most representatives. The INVEST Act is one example, where you are working with the Congressman from New Hampshire, Charles F. Bass (R-NH). Can you tell us a bit about how you were able to work with a Republican on a very important piece of legislation? Any trouble within the house for that cooperation?
Rep. Schiff: I’ve been very lucky over the years to form some very good relationships with my colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle, and Charlie Bass shares my strong commitment to education and to get on with competitiveness. He and I both recognize that this country has been the beneficiary of a brain drain for not only decades, but more like centuries.
The best and brightest have always wanted to come here, and that is becoming less the case. Part of the reason is we make it very difficult for people to come here. Cal Tech, which is part of our district, attracts some of the best and brightest from around the world to get advanced degrees in math, science, and engineering – they want to stay and start a business, and we throw them out.
And that’s crazy. Economically, it’s suicidal. If we’re not going to grow more scientists and engineers here, which we have to work on, we can’t continue to deter those who come here to study from staying and creating jobs here. So we’re working together on this.
Most of the legislation I introduce, I try to work on in a bipartisan way. There’s a lot you can’t get done here given the high partisan environment it is. I try to keep my focus on the range of things you can get done. And there’s still quite a lot that can be achieved.
BurbankNBeyond: The residents of Burbank, Glendale, and Pasadena are pretty insulated from that conflict (the partisan vs. bipartisan conflicts). How do you get around that on a day-to-day basis?
Rep. Schiff: I’m very mindful of what Burbank constituents told me when I was first running for office and I walked the entire city of Burbank. I still have people now, and it’s been 15, 16 years, telling me they remember when I knocked on their door.
I remember them telling me, those who were going to support me, “I’m going to support you, not because you are a Democrat, or because I’m a Republican, but because I want you to do the right thing. I expect you to do the right thing.”
And I’ve really tried to take that to heart. And I’m not alone in that. There are a cadre of people here who are much more interested in getting things done than they are in engaging in partisan hand-to-hand combat.
Unfortunately our ranks have thinned. The primary system has eliminated a lot of the moderates, so it’s harder to find people to work with along those lines, but there still are members like that left (who work together).
In one of the committees I serve on I find even more opportunity for bipartisanship and that’s the Intelligence Committee. Interestingly, that’s the least partisan committee in the house, and I think the reason it is, it that it’s the one committee in which almost all of our meetings are in closed session.
So there are no cameras, and there’s no demagogy because there’s no one to watch the demagogy.
So we have a pretty good working relationship where we get things done, and I wish more committees in the house could operate that way.