Sanders, Graham set to square off in new debate series
Liberal firebrand Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Trump-allied Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are set to square off next month in a policy debate at a full-size replica of the United States Senate in Boston.
The debate series is the brainchild of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) who is hoping to rekindle the Senate’s tradition of debate and collegiality, which many senators feel has gotten lost in recent years as the use of filibusters has become more common to block debate.
Sanders and Graham are two of the most prominent members of the Senate and both gifted orators who have a knack for revving up their parties’ bases and infuriating ideological opponents.
The June 13 debate will be moderated by Fox News anchor Bret Baier and streamed on Fox Nation. It’s sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation, and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute.
“The genesis was a number of organizations were having these conversations kind of separately and amongst ourselves,” said Bipartisan Policy Center President Jason Grumet of talk among the three sponsors about how to revive the spirit of constructive debate in Washington.
“Sen. Daschle was the catalyst. He is on the board of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute. He is also one of the founders of BPC. We’ve all been lamenting the loss of the constructive collision of ideas that has long been the basis of effective democracy.”
Sanders and Graham will debate each other at the Kennedy Institute, which includes a full-size replica of the U.S. Senate that is ordinarily used by visiting school groups to debate the major issues of the day.
The debate is scheduled for one hour and the topics will be announced a week before the event.
Former Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.), who joined the board of the Edward Kennedy Institute a few months ago, said Daschle and former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), another member of the board, were involved in setting up the debate series.
“The leadership of the organization is very much those that believe in the power of public service and the power of the United States Senate to be a place where debate is welcome,” he said.
He said debate and disagreement isn’t an inherent flaw in today’s politics and shouldn’t be shied away from.
“You should care passionately and to have a disagreement that’s not a bug, that’s a feature of a democracy. We want to have that debate but it should be based on principle and it should be done with the expectation that you’re going to try to convince an adversary on that issue of the merits of you cause,” he said.
“And if you can’t, that you move onto the next [issue] because there are too many things affecting the future of our country to get hung up on one of them,” he said. “Your adversary is a fellow American and we’re all trying to make our country better and stronger in the future.
“That’s not where many people think the United States Senate or our government is at the moment,” he said, explaining the desire to have sitting U.S. senators meet outside of Congress to debate their policy differences at the Kennedy Institute and other venues.
The second debate between a Republican and a Democratic senator will be hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center in July at the George Washington University and will be carried live by C-SPAN.
The third debate will be held by the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation in Utah in the fall.
“The Senate Project is a core component of the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation’s central mission: to reinvigorate the civic discourse,” said Hatch Foundation Executive Director Matt Sandgren in a statement. “All too often, network programming—whether on television or online—sows division and contempt among viewers by exaggerating the differences between us.”
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