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Sen. John Kerry is calling on lawmakers to restore what he calls a sense of purpose and civility to the U.S. political process. In an address that was scheduled prior to the mass shooting in Arizona, the senator said the tragedy only increased the urgency of his message.
"[T]he real issue that we need to confront isn't just what role divisive political rhetoric may have played on Saturday, but it's the violence divisive, overly simplistic dialogue does to our democracy every day," Kerry said to a think tank from the nation's capital.
Kerry, though, says he does not blame heated political rhetoric for the deadly attack, which he called an "assault on democracy."
"The big question wasn’t whose rhetoric was right or wrong, but whether our political conversation was indeed worthy of the confidence and trust of the American people," Kerry said.
The senator said American discourse has run off-track, as he recalled the record number of filibusters attempted last year in his chamber. He bid the newly inaugurated 112th Congress to reduce the strategy, saying that legislative polarization prevents America from maintaining its prestigious position in the global economy.
"There's a bipartisan consensus just waiting to lift our country and our future if senators are willing to sit down and forge it and make it real," he said.
Following the shootings, Kerry says this period calls for unity above all else.
"In this time of challenge and opportunity, we all need to commit to reaching across the aisle, as colleagues did before us, to unite to do the exceptional things that together can keep America exceptional for generations to come."
Ariana Siegel contributed to this report.
This program aired on January 11, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.
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