By Ramsey Cox
Political centrists may be on the endangered species list in Washington, D.C., but that hasn't stopped Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) from trying to forge bipartisan agreements in the 112th Congress.
"I'm proud of hopefully being able to build a reputation that I can work with people and listen, and that I'm a thoughtful person who will be able to work across the aisle," Dold told The Hill.
Through his work on the House Financial Services Committee, Dold has had a hand in several bills that passed both chambers and became law.
Dold helped craft the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, the JOBS Act, the STOCK Act and the trade deals between South Korea, Panama and Colombia.
Dold said he listened intently at President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress earlier this year, looking to find common ground between Democrats and Republicans on economic issues.
"I said, "What areas do we agree on in this jobs plan and let's focus on those,' " Dold said. "The president talked about eliminating excessive regulations on small business. Frankly, we agree with that. The president said we want to double exports by 2014. Frankly, I agree and I think most will agree that's a good thing to do, and we passed the three trade agreements."
Dold said working on the STOCK Act -- Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act -- was particularly important to him because of the trust issues his state has had with its public officials.
The bill, signed by President Obama in April, bars members of Congress from trading stocks based on inside information. Lawmakers will be stripped of their federal pensions if convicted of corruption offenses while holding public office.
"When you talk about the STOCK Act and we look more specifically, unfortunately in Illinois we have to deal with this problem because we had Rod Blagojevich [who] violated a public trust as governor. I believe that if [elected officials] do that, they should not be eligible for a pension," Dold said. "So it's not only a fiscally conservative thing, it's a deterrent and something the American public would think is commonsense legislation."
Dold said he wants to restore Americans' confidence that Washington can work.
He was first elected in 2010, a midterm vote defined in large part by the success of Tea Party conservatives.
Dold's district, though, has historically elected moderate Republicans -- including now-Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) -- while leaning Democratic.
"I can sit down and talk to a colleague and I can find the areas that we disagree, and focus on those, but I don't think the American public is looking for us to do that," Dold said of his efforts at bipartisanship.
"I think the American public is looking for Washington to work. I'm not asking people to jeopardize their principles. What I am asking them to do is [think about] what can we agree upon and move forward."
One of the other pressing issues he wants to work on is tax reform.
"OK, Mr. President, you want to talk about comprehensive tax reform. Simpson-Bowles talked about comprehensive tax reform. We want to talk about comprehensive tax reform as well," Dold said.
Dold was a co-sponsor of the Cooper-LaTourette budget. Reps. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) and Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) proposed a 2013 budget modeled on the deficit-reduction plan created by the Simpson-Bowles Commission, which included both spending cuts and revenue increases.
The measure got support from only 38 House members.
"During the budget season, there was one bipartisan budget that hit the floor," Dold said. "It wasn't necessarily popular with some of the interest groups out there, but I do believe that we've got to come together, talk about the big issues that are in front of us, try to solve those big problems."
Another measure Dold hasn't found much support on is H.R. 5650, the Protecting Women's Access to Health Care Act.
Dold, a pro-choice Republican, introduced the bill last month. It would amend Title X funding so there could no longer be discrimination against abortion providers as long as they provide other health services.
Republicans have been attacking groups, such as Planned Parenthood, that provide abortions and other women's health services and receive Title X funds, despite the fact current law also says no federal funds can be used to pay for an abortion procedure.
"I think Title X funding is important and what Title X funding goes to is important. I hope that is a view held by the majority of people, that there are very positive things that come of it," Dold said.
The Department of Health and Human Services distributes Title X funding for family planning programs and women's healthcare for low-income earners.
"If indeed there is a Title X provider that also provides other services, we should not be discriminating against them simply because they provide other services," Dold said. "This is a bill that I think hopefully enables us to provide critical care for women's access to healthcare."
While he conspicuously avoids the word "abortion" when talking about his bill, Dold said he still hadn't found any co-sponsors for the measure.