Climbing the Hill
Rep. Brad Schneider '88 wants to take the partisanship out of politicsBy Chuck McCutcheon
7/29/2013 - Congress is known as a place of polarization and partisanship. But new U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider ’88 (D-Ill.) says he knows how to change that image: draw upon the lessons he learned from his Negotiations course at Kellogg.
“It was probably the most valuable class I had,” said Schneider, who represents the 10th District. The area covers parts of Cook and Lake counties within Chicago’s northern suburbs. “It was about getting to yes, but understanding that you get things done by bringing people together, focused on a goal, going in the same direction. I’ve used that throughout my career, but especially here.”
Schneider edged out Republican Rep. Robert Dold '00 in November 2012—his first-ever bid for elected office— by emphasizing his admiration for, and willingness to work with, lawmakers of all ideologies. That didn’t always prove popular; the group MoveOn.org created a website called “Schneider the Republican”criticizing him for it.
But he said another helpful aspect of Kellogg—assigning students to group projects with others holding different views—is something that more politicians need to try in both business and politics, he said, “The key to success is building relationships one-on-one and within the group and creating the networks. That’s a long-term investment. You don’t just come in and be the bull in the china shop.”
A management consultant before running for Congress, Schneider now sits on the House Small Business Committee, a panel where many freshman member soften serve to pass bills that likely would get stalled on a larger committee.
His first bill will be the “America Works Act,” which he cosponsors with Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Penn). The bill calls for creating industry-recognizable credentials that certify a person’s skill set and ability. The certification would focus on manufacturing fields like welding, machining and computer engineering.
Within a month of its introduction, thebill had attracted more than a dozen cosponsors from both sides of the aisle.
Moving past the gridlock
Schneider’s long-term goals include creating a national infrastructure bank aimed at seeding public-works projects and providing tax incentives for small- and medium-sized businesses looking to expand their investments.
Schneider knows his constituents are waiting to see if he can rise above the party politics and move past the gridlock. He welcomes the challenge.
“Other than being a father,” he said,“this job is the greatest responsibility I’ve ever had.”