A Blue Dog Democrat said that the Reagan administration was probably the best time he can remember for a White House and Congress working together.
Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) told PBS that there has “never a golden age” for bipartisanship, “but there might have been a bronze age.”
“The Tip O’Neill era, in retrospect, was a pretty harmonious time because Tip could sit down with President Ronald Reagan and get things done after hours. That’s almost no longer true today. There’s such acrimony, and we’re behaving more like a parliament than a Congress because so many of my colleagues vote 99 percent of the time with their political party position,” Cooper said.
“Joe Manchin and I are two of the few that sometimes break with our party because no party has a monopoly on wisdom. I’m a proud Democrat but we need to make sure we’re doing the right thing for the country. That’s our main job.”
Cooper said personalities are part of the reason for the acrimony, but there are also “some larger forces” at play.
“We’ve gotten so darned good at gerrymandering with computers that these districts are preselected to send the most partisan people in America to Washington. And once they get to Washington, they don’t even know each other anymore because nobody lives in Washington. An hour after the last vote we’re all flying back home to be with folks back home,” the congressman said.
“And then there are bigger factors, too. The Internet has changed politics tremendously. It used to be when we had three news channels we had a common set of facts on which to operate from. Today, whether you’re watching Fox or MSNBC, you can see a completely different picture of America. So it’s very hard for people to get along in that environment.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said “we’ve just got to get our act together and start acting like Americans and quit worrying about being Democrats and Republicans.”
Manchin uses a houseboat on the Potomac because he just “couldn’t come to investing in real estate here in D.C.”
“I told my wife, I’m going to buy a boat because then when things get a little bit crazier than what they are now and whatever decisions I make, I can just float away and no one will notice the difference,” Manchin said.
The boat has had other uses, as well.
“It’s really been a great thing for us to have an evening to get a few of our senators together, maybe four, five, six or eight, even more at times. And I try to get a balance of Democrats and Republicans, and people from what you would think from one end of the spectrum to another,” he said.
“One night we had Tom Harkin and Ted Cruz, a beautiful evening. And I know that Tom looked at me and probably Ted looked at me — these are both my friends — and before I knew it, you couldn’t separate the two from conversation.”