From a quiet mezzanine above an empty House of Representatives meeting chamber, U.S. Rep. Todd Platts gestured to the floor below.
There are times, he said, when it seems everyone else has already made up their mind and won't compromise.
He's a "proud Republican," he said, "but never a blind Republican."
That open mind, however novel in Washington, has garnered some criticism at home.
Over 12 years, Platts has watched the atmosphere in Washington grow more partisan, which he surmised is the combined result of attacks on former President George W. Bush by "extreme" groups such as moveon.org, and attacks on President Barack Obama by the tea party -- a group that has also gone after Platts.
"Involvement is good, but it needs to be done in an honorable and respectable way," Platts said. "I can disagree with President Obama in a respectful way. I will tell him the merits of the proposal and why I think it's wrong. But now, opposition to something seems to be because you don't want the other side to have a victory."
That would change if all Americans viewed themselves as being members of the same team, the way members of the Armed Forces do, he said.
"A Marine goes into harm's way and doesn't do it as a proud Republican or Democrat," he said. "They do it as a proud American."
Growing partisanship: Posturing and negotiations are part of the process, but they need to be productive, he said. And collaboration won't happen until it's the result of a united voice of Americans, he said.
"It's not going to change overnight, and the only way it's going to change is if the American people push for it," he said. "The American people need to say, 'Stop throwing bombs and work together.' If Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill could do it, we should be able to do it. We need more statesmen, and less partisan."
When he and his wife supported family friend and Democrat John Brenner's campaign for York City mayor, prominent Republicans acted as though he'd "committed treason because Leslie and I supported who we thought was the best candidate," he said.
Platts is a member of a group of moderate Republicans -- though he eschews the label "moderate" and chooses instead to describe them as a group of deliberate Republicans "who don't have their minds made up already" -- called the Tuesday group, named after the day of the week on which they lunch together.
He doesn't have very close relationships with people who are extremely partisan, he said.
Though a Republican, Platts was attacked by members of the York 912 Patriots, the local tea party, whose members said he wasn't conservative enough to serve the county. The group was
But voters of the district might have a hard time letting go of Platts, according to a districtwide telephone poll of voters commissioned by The York Dispatch last April and conducted by York Township-based Polk-Lepson Research Group.
About 50 percent of respondents would rather have voted for Platts than any of the nine candidates who ran in the primary, the poll showed. There were 400 respondents, 186 of whom were Democrats.
Doing the job: Platts kept a busy schedule in the current session, serving on seven subcommittees and three standing committees. In addition to meetings of those groups, the typical day included five or six constituent meetings, everyone from health care professionals to teachers, he said.
If a constituent calls, he meets with him or her. If a lobbyist calls, he has staff meet with him or her, unless a constituent is there also, he said.
Voting is typically in three sets per day. He has timed his walk to the House floor so he knows when to take the underground train over to the Capitol to vote, he said.
There are some votes -- including one on meaningful campaign finance reform he said he'd like to see pass -- Platts said he would have liked to cast in 12 years, but the issues never progressed.
But Platts said he feels he has represented the district well, pushing reforms to make federal agencies more fiscally accountable and transparent.
He had a late-session victory this year in the whistle-blowing legislation that gives federal employees more protection to uncover misuse and fraud. It was signed into law by Obama last month.
In 2004, Bush signed a Platts-sponsored bill to strengthen financial accountability standards at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
In 2007, he was the lead Republican sponsor of a bill that increased fuel-efficiency standards and, two years later, his legislation to give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products was signed into law.
Platts was also the lead Republican sponsor of legislation -- signed into law in early 2011-- that provided more means to determine which federal government programs are most effective.
His last official day in office is Jan. 2, after which his 19th District becomes the new 4th District, represented by Scott Perry.
Leaving, Platts said, is bittersweet.
"I know it's the right decision, but it's not an easy one," he said. "The last day I shut the door will be a sad day in closing this chapter and leaving a job that I love."
But he said his life proves that a kid who grew up in East York can make his dreams come true, and he did what he set out to do.
"It goes back to Mom and Dad telling me to do to the best of my ability," he said. "For 12 years, every day I approached my job to do the best I can and have the best interests of the county at heart. I'd like to believe I lived up to that assignment my parents gave me."
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.