Bipartisan Barr bill aims to bridge America’s polarized culture

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) on Feb. 25 unveiled a bipartisan bill that would address the current polarization and division in the United States by establishing a new, non-partisan pilot program within AmeriCorps known as the Office of Civic Bridgebuilding.

The proposed legislation — a product of the Bipartisan Working Group (BPWG) that Rep. Barr co-chairs with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) — would task the program with building relationships across lines of difference, according to a bill summary provided by Rep. Barr’s office.

“Our nation was founded on civic engagement and rigorous debate to achieve the ultimate good. This legislation will provide resources to revitalize our civic culture and bring our country together to confront the issues of our day,” Rep. Barr said. “I want to thank my friend and co-chair of BPWG, Rep. Derek Kilmer, for his leadership on this bill and I look forward to this legislation moving through Congress.”

Rep. Barr is the lead original cosponsor of the Building Civic Bridges Act, H.R. 6843, alongside 16 other cosponsors, including U.S. Reps. John Katko (R-NY), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Fred Upton (R-MI), Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA), and Don Bacon (R-NE). The bill would authorize $25 million to carry out its prescribed duties during fiscal years 2023 through 2025, according to the bill summary.

Under H.R. 6843, the pilot program would have four core pillars: allocating federal grants on a competitive basis to bolster civic organizations and spaces dedicated to revitalizing civic culture in the United States, such as nonprofits, public institutions, schools, and religious groups, among others; supporting the training of AmeriCorps members in civic bridge-building skills and techniques; supporting research on civic bridge building, civic engagement and social cohesion; and initiating public discussion about the importance of civic bridge building by providing resources, network and collaboration opportunities to the field, the summary says.

“Instead of accepting toxic polarization as the new normal, many community, faith and civic leaders are leading efforts to foster dialogue, defuse and address sources of conflict, and bridge differences,” said Rep. Kilmer. “The bipartisan Building Civic Bridges Act would lend some support to these civic bridge-building efforts.”

Ripon Advance News Service

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