Sen. Joe Manchin: ‘It’s Hard to Say No to Your Friend’

Sen. Joe Manchin

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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) believes he has a simple solution to help ensure bipartisanship in Washington: require majority and minority leaders in Congress to “have one dinner, or even one cup of coffee, together once a week. ... It’s hard to say no to your friend. You always want to find a pathway forward with a friend.”

Manchin and his Republican counterpart from the same state, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, spoke virtually Thursday with Shannon McGahn, the National Association of REALTORS®’ chief advocacy officer, during the virtual 2021 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings. In their session, called “Congressional Spotlight: A Candid Conversation with Lawmakers from Both Sides of the Aisle,” Manchin and Capito shared their insights into bipartisanship and the importance of personal relationships, including their own. Both of their families have known each other for decades.

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Capito, too, said she believes there is still camaraderie to be found in Washington. “Reports of how divided we are in Congress are a bit exaggerated by the media for dramatic effect,” she said, pointing to bipartisan support for criminal justice reform, legislation to invest in national parks and other conservation and public recreation areas, and appropriations bills. It’s the big issues, she said, where you see “sharper elbows. It could be better; maybe it could be a lot worse.”

Capito is part of the Republican contingent negotiating with President Joe Biden over his infrastructure bill. “The president has been very welcoming to Republicans,” she said. “He asked us, ‘If you don't like my Infrastructure package, what do you like?’ ”

She and several other senators put together a package, which she thought Biden would jettison. But, she said, he welcomed it as a good starting point and invited more discussion. “I’m bargaining in good faith,” Capito said. “I’ve been telling the White House everything we’re doing. And it’s [Biden’s] invitation we’re going on. This [opportunity] might give us a chance to do what people expect us to.”

Manchin said he believes more compromise is achievable if some members of Congress would use the deliberative process. “There’s always a compromise to be made with reasonable people,” he said. “Let [legislation] go to committees. Take it to the floor. Let it be amended by the people, not on the committees, so they have a chance, too, and see what happens.

“We might have to be here on some weekends and might have to work late at night. But people want to legislate again, and you can’t legislate unless there’s a process to legislate off of,” Manchin added. “You can’t be the majority leader and say, ‘No amendments; it’s yea or nay.’ I’m sick and tired of that, and I think a lot of senators are, too.

“Bipartisanship is who we are as a country. I’m not giving up on it.”

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