Mon February 28, 2011

Ex-FBI Agent Hunts For Consensus On Capitol Hill

Republican Michael Grimm ran for Congress last year, among other things, on his rather unusual resume: As an undercover FBI agent, he investigated the mob and crime on Wall Street.

He says his work at the FBI uniquely prepared him for his new job representing the mostly blue-collar 13th District of New York

"I specialized in deep undercover work. And one of the things that made me successful as an undercover agent was my ability to find commonality among those who seemed to not have any. Right now it seems that the big problem is Congress is polarized," Grimm says. "We have the far left and the far right, and if they don't meet in the middle, nothing will get done. So I am going to draw on that experience to find common ground."

When Grimm ran, he had a flood of endorsements. The Tea Party backed him, as did Sarah Palin and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. But, Grimm says, the scope of his campaign extended beyond the Tea Party.

"We had a tremendous amount of support outside the Tea Party. So I think it is broader than that," he says.

Tea Party members in Staten Island and Brooklyn, Grimm says, "are regular, everyday hard-working people that really felt this country was headed in the wrong direction and they didn't want to sit by."

Grimm says he ran for office because he thought the country was headed in the wrong direction on health care and the economy. His challenge will be how to find common ground in such a contentious atmosphere on Capitol Hill.

One possible area of agreement is financial reform. Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican representing the 8th District of Michigan, who, like Grimm, has FBI past, is one of the lawmakers who made committee assignments. He says he put Grimm on the committee that will oversees financial services partly because of the work Grimm did for the FBI on Wall Street.

"I just can't think of a better skill set to come to Congress and then apply it to I think one of the most important markets that we have in the United States and that's the financial services market," Rogers says.

Rogers says he and Grimm have started their own club on Capitol Hill. It is for former FBI agents turned lawmakers.

So far, they are the only two members. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.