In a Congress that’s grown ever more partisan, a group of 25 U.S. House members with backgrounds in the military is taking a stand for civility and service that they hope can help put the nation back on track.

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Lewiston Democrat who is a new co-chairman of the For Country Caucus, said Thursday that its members, who hail from the ranks of both parties, often clash ideologically but they still believe “it’s possible to sit around a table and talk about policies we can agree on.”

They come together, he said, in opposition to the “false choice and a destructive narrative” that politicians can’t work together anymore across party lines.

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden

The second-term congressman from Maine’s 2nd District said the group “will use the muscle that we clearly have” in a closely divided House to push for issues their military backgrounds hold dear, from national service for young people to standing up to new international challenges such the rising competition from China.

Formed two years ago, the caucus focused on patriotic service rather than partisan politics, determined to promote civil debate and respect for one another’s divergent views.

Its founders, two Democrats and two Republicans, declared at the start that “we seek a Congress where members serve with integrity, civility and courage. And we want a Congress that is strategic in purpose, focused in action and where elected officials put their country first.”

Golden, who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan in the U.S. Marine Corps, said the caucus aims to bring the patriotism and ethos of service to the fore.

He said it is not a centrist group because members sometimes have strong liberal or conservative agendas that drive them.

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden served as a U.S. Marine in Iraq after doing a combat tour in Afghanistan. Submitted photo

“Ideologically, we check every box in Washington,” the legislator said.

What they share, Golden said, is a commitment to avoid acting “grotesquely partisan” and to steer clear of criticizing each other directly. He said one member during the last congressional session left voluntarily because he couldn’t stop tweeting harsh commentary.

What pulls the members together despite their ideological differences is the discipline they learned in the military and their “ability to see the best in each other” instead of letting their politics get in the way, the congressman said.

Golden said that when he went into combat, he never questioned the politics or the commitment to country of the men at his side. They had a job to do, he said, and that’s what they focused on.

The For Country Caucus, the lawmaker said, operates with that same attitude, making it easier “to deliver results and cut through the BS.”

In December, the caucus issued a list of legislation it helped push through during its first two-year congressional session, including support for paid parental leave, phasing out the widow’s tax, authorizing additional visas for Afghan allies to move to the United States, reimbursing Gold Star families for the costs of transporting fallen service members’ remains to a national cemetery and better housing for military personnel and their families.

Golden said there are many issues that cut across partisan lines, not all of them related to the military, that House members can address successfully.

Golden said that when President Joe Biden was out on the campaign trail last year, he talked a lot of the need for unity and healing in a nation that’s been increasingly divided.

He said the veterans caucus embraces that idea.

Golden said when the group met this week, he recognized that not everybody in its ranks supported Biden or even agreed to endorse electors from states that backed the Democrat last year on Election Day.

He said that’s OK.

Golden said he did draw “a bright red line,” though, for anyone to belong to the caucus: that they had to acknowledge that Biden is the legitimate president. Nobody balked at that insistence, he said.

In the end, he said, every member, from both parties, agreed that what’s important on Capitol Hill isn’t scoring political points. It’s getting things done for the American people – the same motivation they all shared in uniform in earlier days.


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