WASHINGTON (May 13, 2021) – The senior and junior United States senators from West Virginia joined the National Association of Realtors® today for a session at the 2021 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin sat down with NAR's Chief Advocacy Officer Shannon McGahn to share their unique insight into bipartisanship and the importance of personal relationships to having success in the nation's capital.
Senator Manchin has served as the United States senator for West Virginia since 2010. Having just this month been named the most bipartisan member of the upper chamber by CQ Roll Call for the third straight year, McGahn asked the Democratic lawmaker for his view on how the spirit of bipartisanship can be revived in Washington.
"I don't think [bipartisanship] has ever left, I really don't. I think what's harder now is through all of the media, whether it be cable [or] social platforms, it just keeps radicalizing more people," Manchin observed.
He noted that during a recent commencement address he delivered, he stressed to graduates that their generation must find a way to reverse the trend. Manchin said that as echo chambers have become more prevalent in the era of cable news, his generation has been "radicalized because we can't process all the information coming at us because we didn't grow up with cell phones, we didn't grow up with all this back-and-forth and instant news."
Senator Capito was the first Republican woman ever elected to both the U.S. House and Senate from West Virginia. While acknowledging that the country is more divided today than it's been at other points in its history, she said reports of how divided Congress is "are probably a bit exaggerated by the media for… more dramatic effect."
"We still work across the aisle to get a lot of things done," said Capito, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "We actually do work a lot more behind the scenes together. The problem is the big issues [are] where we really have great differences, and those are the sharper elbows that you see. It could be better… maybe it could be a lot worse… [but] we need to do something to make it better so the American people can see us working together."
Capito is leading the Republican negotiations with President Biden on infrastructure, meeting today at the White House.
Manchin suggested that congressional leaders should be required to sit down once per week for a meal or "even one cup of coffee" with members of the opposing party. He also stressed his opposition to sitting lawmakers campaigning against others.
"There's a matter of trust that goes in with bipartisanship," said Manchin, the Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "Bipartisanship is this: not going to work every day trying to get your friend fired… We should never be ethically allowed to campaign against a sitting colleague, whether you like them or not."
Manchin and Capito shared stories of the times they had spent together outside of the political arena, with relationships between the lawmakers and their extended families stretching back decades.
"West Virginia is a small state, that's the beauty of a small state," said Capito, who was elected to the Senate in 2014. "You do form these relationships through your family, or your region, or where everybody went to school."
Ultimately, Manchin and Capito outlined an example for bipartisan cooperation and comradery in Washington, offering some optimism for the future discourse in the Capitol.
"I know that she has West Virginia through and through in her heart and soul," Manchin said of Capito. "And she knows that I do too. We want the best for our state… and I think we can set the example of what bipartisanship can be.
"Bipartisanship is who we are as a country. It's this experiment of ours that Benjamin Franklin said, 'You have a republic, young man, if you can keep it.' And it's still an experiment 240 years later. So, I'm not giving up on it."
The National Association of Realtors® is America's largest trade association, representing more than 1.4 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
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