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Kentucky's Andy Barr Says He'll Focus On Compromise In New Congress


When Congress reconvened on January 3rd, it did so with 84 newly elected members. We've been profiling a few of the newcomers over the past week. Today, we'll learn a bit more about the latest Republican to join Kentucky delegation Andy Barr. Here's Kentucky Public Radio's Kenny Colston.

KENNY COLSTON, BYLINE: The halls of Henry Clay High School in Lexington aren't that much different than the halls of power its namesake served in: loud and busy. But this place brings back memories for Congressman-elect Andy Barr.

ANDY BARR: And it's great to be back in my alma mater, Henry Clay. Go Devils.


COLSTON: Barr moves around the room as he addresses a group of 70 people about his upcoming two-year term. Barr is a lawyer from central Kentucky. He defeated four-term Democrat Ben Chandler in November to win the seat. It was Barr's second run for the position. Barr will join some notable Republicans from his home state in Congress, including Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and Howell Rogers, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

While Barr's colleagues may not be known for compromise, Barr plans to take his cues from another Kentuckian Henry Clay. He was known as the great compromiser back in the early to mid 1800s.


BARR: But I don't believe the American people voted for the status quo. I think the American people want our leaders in Washington to work together to try to come to some consensus and solve these major problems.

COLSTON: Barr's first goal is to help community banks be released from recent regulations like Dodd-Frank. That was legislation from the bank bailouts which put tighter controls on how banks lend their money. Barr says those regulations are crippling smaller banks who have the cash to give but need to jump through too many hoops. Kentucky has more than 150 of these smaller chartered banks. And with the delegation already in multiple leadership positions, Barr sees his niche on the House Financial Services Committee.

BEN SWANSON: It is encouraging to me that Congressman-elect Andy Barr seem to embrace compromise. I was a little concerned that he didn't mention any specific proposals on which he would be willing to compromise.

COLSTON: That's Ben Swanson, president of the high school's Young Democrats. The school is known for its political activism and its academics. Barr's district is considered a swing district made up of a majority of Democrats. This is why Barr is talking up compromise and loyalty to his constituents and why another Henry Clay student Macy Early is giving Barr a chance to prove himself.

MACY EARLY: I think there's an old saying that says that a Kentucky Democrat is a New York Republican. And I think that regardless of politics, especially with the bipartisan block that we have going on in Washington and around the nation right now, we need to understand that we should supersede politics.

COLSTON: Which seem to be Barr's early goal, to rise above and in the gridlock.

BARR: And strip away the party labels. I think what the American people want are solutions. What they want - they care about the policy to get the country turned around.

COLSTON: As for which way it turns, that will be up to Barr and his colleagues in the House. For NPR News, I'm Kenny Colston in Louisville. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenny Colston

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