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Getting to Know You ....

January 25, 2013 - Joselyn King
It seems maybe the best way for the nation's leaders to come together on a spending plan is to sit down to eat at the same table and get to know each other -- maybe even over a plate of pork.

Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., told us recently the story of getting to know colleague Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill, a former Black Panther from Chicago. McKinley said Rush often voiced strong criticism early during the last session of Congress when McKinley spoke on the House floor about coal. "He just kept ripping me apart... he kept doing that for a couple of months, and I realized this is going to be a long two years," McKinley said

So he opted to go sit down and speak to Rush, who was at first taken aback by McKinley.

"I sat down next to him and said, "Lets talk, this isn't going anywhere,'" McKinley said. "Then we started joking with each other a little bit."

Over time, their relationship improved.

"When we go down to the House floor, we knuckle bump now," McKinley said. "We talk to each other. We ask how our families are. There isn't enough of that getting to know each other."

In the last days of the 112th Legislature last month, McKinley felt confident enough to ask Rush to sign on to a manufacturing bill be was sponsoring. In the end, Rush signed.

"Here's a guy -- we were diametrically opposed to each other -- now we're on a bill together," McKinley said. "You can do it if you just take time."

"It's one of our biggest problems. I just want people to know each other a little bit."

The nation's second president, Thomas Jefferson, understood the key to being an effective politician was establishing relationships and getting to know the members of Congress with whom he would be working.

Jefferson often scheduled regular gatherings with both supporters and opponents -- often calling them for dinner at the White House, according to historian/author Jon Meacham

"He believed, I think rightly, that it is harder to say 'no' to someone when you know them," Meachem said during a recent segment on CBS News Sunday Morning.

The same segment also quoted David Gergen, a former advisor to four presidents -- Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Gergen noted President Obama has played golf 104 times during his presidency -- but only twice with a member of Congress. He missed 102 opportunities to build relationships, according to Gergen.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has said consistently there is a lack of opportunities for camaraderie among members of Congress in Washington. Current lawmakers typically spend just three days a week in Washington, then lose another two days going to and from their district.

Manchin suggested members instead stay in Washington for three-week periods, during which time they would work closely together and come to know each other. His idea would have members returning home to their districts on the fourth week.

It does seem to make more sense lawmakers would get more accomplished if they could focus more on Congressional work, building relationships and less on travel.


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