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News >  Local government

Baseball game a tradition of bringing Congress together

UPDATED: Wed., June 14, 2017

Congressman George Nethercutt visits the Spokesman-Review newsroom in 2000. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Congressman George Nethercutt visits the Spokesman-Review newsroom in 2000. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The Congressional Baseball Game between Republicans and Democrats is a chance for members to forget partisan differences for a while, a former congressman from Spokane said Wednesday.

“It’s a great tradition of bringing Democrats and Republicans together,” said George Nethercutt, who represented Eastern Washington in the House from 1995 to 2004. “For a moment in time, everybody’s pulling on the same oar.”

Republican House members and their staffs were practicing for this year’s game when a gunman opened fire on the practice field in Alexandria, Virginia. The alleged shooter, identified by police as James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a staff member, a lobbyist and two members of the Capitol Police force before he was fatally shot.

Nethercutt played baseball in high school but never played on the GOP team for the game, which raises money for charity. But he’s attended many and was “distressed like everybody else” when he heard about Wednesday morning’s attack.

“I think we’re facing a culture of intolerance in our country that’s dangerous,” he said.

Some of that intolerance may come from listening only to news that favors one political viewpoint or another, he said. It may also be a result of not knowing history and how government works, and a belief that disagreements are solved by shouting the other person down.

“The president speaking the way he does sometimes doesn’t help,” Nethercutt said. He didn’t vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 but said he wants the president to succeed.

Nethercutt left the House in 2004 for an unsuccessful run for the Senate. He’s an attorney who practices in Spokane and Washington, D.C., and has a foundation to help advance civics in schools.

The shock of Wednesday’s attack may bring Congress together, at least for a while. That has happened in the wake of other crises. Nethercutt remembers it happening after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“But it didn’t last,” he added.

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