Mike Castle Promotes Bill Aimed At Curbing Partisanship in Washington

Democrat John Tanner, former Speaker Dennis Hastert join Delaware Congressman at Ripon Society breakfast

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a speech this morning to the centrist Republican policy group, The Ripon Society, Delaware Congressman Mike Castle promoted legislation he has co-authored that would reform the way congressional districts around the country are apportioned and, in the process, help curb the partisanship that has paralyzed Washington in recent years.

The bill is called The Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act, orFAIR Act (HR 3025). Introduced by Castle and Democratic Congressman John Tanner of Tennessee, the legislation would establish minimum national guidelines for states to follow in drawing Congressional district lines. Under this plan, a bipartisan commission in each state would draw that state’s Congressional map exactly once every 10 years, following the release of new Census data. Districts would be drawn to adhere to the Voting Rights Act, equal population, geography and local boundaries.

The legislation, which currently has 30 co-sponsors, only affects Congressional districts and does not address district lines for state and local elections. According to Castle, it would affect the partisan stalemate that has gripped our Nation’s capital – a stalemate, he said, that has made it nearly impossible for balanced, bipartisan solutions to be reached on problems such as reforming health care and reducing the national debt.

“So often, legislators elected in their home districts come to Washington with good intentions but fail to work with their colleagues on the other side of the aisle,” he stated. “We can respect each other and find common ground without dismissing opinions that differ from our own.”

Castle’s comments were echoed by Congressman Tanner, who introduced the Delaware Representative at this morning’s breakfast and described some of the research the pair turned up prior to introducing the bill.

“We discovered … that there are only 91 districts out of 435 in the House that are within the hypothetical margin of error of a 50-50 voting pattern. Said another way, 344 seats here are outside the hypothetical margin of error to either ‘R’ or ‘D’, which means that 344 theoretically come here responsive to the most partisan elements of American society.”

Tanner was introduced at the breakfast by former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who serves along with Castle on The Ripon Society’s Honorary Congressional Advisory Board and set the tone of the morning’s discussion in his remarks.

“The best of times in the legislative process is when you can bring both sides together,” Hastert stated. Unfortunately, the Speaker went on to indicate, it has taken a crisis in recent years for that to occur. “The nine months after 9/11 … I saw two sides work together for the good of the country. We probably got more done on a bipartisan basis in the nine months after 9/11 than at any other time I saw in Congress.”

All photos by Marty LaVor