WHEELING - U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley hopes to see bipartisan accord in Washington this year as he and his fellow House freshmen get more comfortable in their roles.
He also noted he will seek re-election next year.
"I'm always the optimist ... but yes," Congress will start to work together 2012, McKinley, R-W.Va., said. "We have more business-minded people in the House, and they are going to emerge.
In 2011, "25 percent of Congress were freshmen. Many had never served in public life before, and it took a while for them to understand the process, and that compromise isn't a bad word. ... There's hope," he added.
He said one thing that must end is the unwillingness between the House and Senate to work together.
He referenced the debate in the House to extend the payroll tax cut that had passed the Senate. The House initially rejected the measure, but the Senate had left Washington for the holidays, thus forcing the House to pass the bill instead of raising taxes on 160 million Americans.
"Sometimes you have to go to conference committee," McKinley said. "It can't always be my way or the highway."
McKinley, an engineer and businessman, served in the West Virginia House of Delegates from 1981-1994 before being elected to the U.S. House in 2010. He believes Congress needs more members with a business background, and that many long-time lawmakers - serving for years within the Washington beltway - are too far removed from the realities of running a business.
"Absolutely I'm going to seek re-election this year," McKinley said. "But I think I'm only going to serve three to four terms max. That's it. I have a great home and family, and I like to return to be home with the grandchildren.
"But right now America needs business-minded people and less firebrands - people who take a more sensible approach to problems. I learned in the Legislature to meet with opponents and talk to them. I was able to do what I said I would do" since taking office in January, citing the House's successes in creating jobs, cutting spending, repealing health care reform legislation and protecting miners and the coal mining industry.
"I know people are as frustrated as I am with Congress - but I see a change," McKinley said. "It's not all negative. The dialogue now is more about reducing spending - and that's a titanic shift in dialogue. It took some months before freshmen got a foothold, and now we're seeing a pushback on spending. We're moving in the right direction ... it took a massive effort to get there."
He said his biggest disappointment was that House freshmen - mostly Republicans - weren't able to get the message across that they were seeking to create a more stable climate for business in America.
"We were trying to create an environment where the private sector would feel confident and start hiring again," McKinley said. "They have to feel it's worth the risk to invest.
"Once we remove that uncertainty, the economy will start to grow. All of us want a better America. It's the approach we take toward it (that causes division.) It's all about capitalism - it's how we got where we are today."