The Fine Print
Whether they like it or not, Congress is getting a marriage counselor.
Carol Bailey, a Seattle family law attorney and mediator, has spent her career helping couples transform dysfunctional relationships into productive ones. And, now, she’s volunteering her services on Capitol Hill.
“I realized one day it's just like a family, it really is,” Bailey said of Congress in an interview with “The Fine Print.”
Bailey has authored a guide, “ Easing Congressional Gridlock: A Divorce Mediator’s Guide for the Union That Can’t Dissolve,” in which she outlines 10 tips for lawmakers on how to stop bickering and start working toward positive solutions. And this week, she’s come to Washington to distribute her brochure, along with a pocket-size card that summarizes the tips for members to carry in their wallets.
Bailey compares Congress to a dysfunctional marriage and the American people to their crying children saying “take care of us,” as depicted on the cover of her brochure. But despite the humor of the analogy, Bailey said she is serious about her message and confident that her advice, if followed, can make the nation’s legislative body more functional.
“I'm generally working with two people who have a legitimate reason to dislike each other bitterly,” Bailey said. “They've cheated on each other, they have stolen money from each other, they have done all kinds of dishonest things. So, if the tips work for people who have those kinds of personal issues, they should work for the Congress.”
If she has the opportunity, Bailey said she’d most like to sit down jointly with Senate leaders, Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Mitch McConnell, R – Ky., for an hour of intense mediation.
“What I would do is actually take some actual text of what they've said and I would say now right here you are making an accusation okay,” Bailey said, imagining how a session with the two Senate leaders would unfold. “When the other person reads this, they're going to feel defensive and you're not going to get your point across, so let's strike that kind of accusation and instead just tell us … what your plan is and let's focus on something positive instead of criticizing the other person.”
As a mediator, Bailey said she is not choosing sides and believes that both parties are to blame for the recent impasses that have paralyzed Congress.
“I really think both sides are to blame and it comes down to individuals,” she said. “I watch and am always kind of monitoring what they're saying, and I see people that are in both parties saying things that are accusatory, negative … this is some very specific behaviors that they can engage in that can improve things and I know they work.”
The tips in the 10-point guide include: "You don't learn anything new when you're talking," “Get over yourself: This is not about you or your party” and “there's no way to reach agreement without compromise.”
Though Bailey is targeting members of Congress with her lesson, she points out that the tips aren’t only good for politics but for all interpersonal relationships.
“As I tell everybody, it works in love and in politics,” she said.
For more of the interview with Bailey, including the story of what inspired her to bring her brochure to Congress, check out this episode of “The Fine Print.”
ABC News’ Alexandra Dukakis, Gary Westphalen, John Bullard and Bob Bramson contributed to this episode.