Rep. Scott Perry
Rep. Scott Perry

What does U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-York County, have in common with Janice Hahn, a California Democrat whose endorsements include the AFL-CIO, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein?

More than one might think, the conservative congressman contends.

The right-wing associations Perry has formed over his brief tenure in Washington, D.C., are well documented. They include grueling fitness workouts with former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and a local appearance by Speaker of the House John Boehner, who was enough of a Perry fan to turn up in Harrisburg to raise money for him.

But Perry said he also has spent at least seven of the eight months he's been in office forming unlikely alliances across the aisle, touting his membership in No Labels, a movement that includes Democrats, Republicans and independent lawmakers who want to heal the bitter divide between parties so more can be accomplished.

He and Hahn are both members of the nonpartisan club's Problem Solvers, a group of House and Senate members who have agreed to meet regularly to build trust across the aisle.

"At the end of the day, there are some philosophical differences that we have and that's not going to change. But we need to sit down and talk about what we do agree on ... and figure out how we can move the ball forward on these things."

It's no secret that the parties work against each other's efforts, he said, and that hinders both productivity and the practical goals of governing.

"Establishing personal trust is what it takes ... to break down the philosophical issues that come with personality," he said. "Nothing else is working real well at the moment."

Conservative credentials: Perry's conservative credentials are well established.

The conservative research group The Heritage Foundation has scored Perry a 92 -- leading Pennsylvania's delegation in the 113th Congress -- on the Heritage Action Scorecard. It measures how conservative members of Congress are, based on their votes, co-sponsorships and other legislative activity.

Perry also joined the York 912 Patriots, York's tea party, in absentia while serving in Iraq in 2009, when he was also serving in the state House.

He's scheduled to speak at the group's Sept. 5 town hall meeting, but he said he's not sure if he's still a member because he was never sent an application and hasn't paid dues since joining.

Beth Roberts, a 912 spokeswoman, said records show Perry's annual membership expired in July, but a computer problem might be providing inaccurate records.

Perry said focusing on group memberships and score cards detracts from the point.

"I haven't made any of my votes with a concern for which organization might score me or label me which way or another," he said. "Sometimes they're with you and sometimes they're not. I haven't changed my foundation of what I believe based on bipartisanship."

He wants to talk to all kinds of people, he said, because it almost always "takes members from both sides to move legislation forward."

On July 18, Problem Solvers unveiled its first legislative initiative, a bipartisan package of proposals that includes measures such as moving to a two-year budgeting process, stopping automatic spending increases and withholding pay from Congress if it can't pass a budget and all spending bills on time.

Perry and Hahn were among those proposing it.

Rare chance: No Labels deputy director Margaret Kimbrell said Perry and Hahn are a good sample of the membership, which includes conservatives, liberals "and everything in between."

While there are party caucus meetings in Washington, No Labels provides a rare opportunity for inter-party discussion.

"It is very uncommon to see a Democrat and a Republican walking down the hallway, sharing a laugh, sharing a coffee," she said.

Kimbrell said Perry's military service background has given him a unique voice in the group, which he joined in February after calling Kimbrell on her cellphone to tell her "he believes in the mission and the cause, and whatever he can do to help."

"He doesn't agree with every piece of legislation that has come out," Kimbrell said. "But that openness and that willingness to sit down and have a conversation and not just bicker is constructive. He's very results-oriented, so I think it has been very frustrating to Congressman Perry that nothing is getting down."

Effort applauded: Perry and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale were colleagues before the two both moved onto new jobs earlier this year.

As a state representative, DePasquale was the only Democrat in York's delegation and Perry's only chance for local collaborative bipartisanship. He said Perry was friendly and the two got along very well.

"Scott is a very conservative guy and that's no secret," DePasquale said. "But I think Scott was always open to dialogue."

DePasquale applauded No Labels for its effort in a Congress where "the rhetoric needs to be toned down to make way for consensus and compromise."

-- Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.