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Compromise: Members of Congress believe it’s possible

February 28, 2013
By JOSELYN KING - For The?Times Leader , Times Leader

WHEELING - The spirit of compromise remains alive at the U.S. Capitol, according to local federal lawmakers.

The question now is whether members of Congress will choose to actually practice the art of compromise and thus lead the country in a new direction.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is the co-founder of the Congressional Civility Caucus.

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REP. BILL Johnson, R-Ohio, and members of congress believe the spirit of compromise is alive and well in Washington, D.C.

"I'm an optimist," Capito said. "I believe that we all truly want what's best for our country, however, we may disagree on how to get there.

"The tone of debate and constant bickering has to stop. West Virginians deserve honest, level-headed conversations about how to solve our most pressing challenges."

Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., suggests the attitude of the American electorate can be mean-spirited, and this often is reflected by elected representatives.

He explained members of Congress receive letters, phone calls and e-mails that can be filled with hateful words and thoughts, and he acknowledged "it affects you."

The spirit of compromise "is still alive in Washington," McKinley said. "It just needs some care. The lack of civility goes beyond our process in Washington, it also comes down to the American public."

Some of the public's comments "are brutal, and you see that's what some people really believe. That lack of civility sticks with you a little bit. And they'll use that against you in campaigns."

Members of Congress do need to respect each other a little better, he continued.

"We don't have to be this way," McKinley commented. "We've allowed the public to keep dumbing us down to the point that it is easier to fight among ourselves than to work together."

That lack of respect between members of Congress was best illustrated late last year when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Speaker John Boehner publicly expressed their disdain for one another during the fiscal cliff negotiations.

Many in Congress also agree that President Obama has been one of the biggest offenders when it comes to compromise.

Washington is a very partisan place, said Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio.

"But that doesn't mean that we should stop trying to find common-sense solutions," he continued. "I am willing to work with anyone - Republican, Democrat, or Independent - to find good ideas that will solve problems. Neither party has a monopoly on good ideas."

He added he has been encouraged to see local elected leaders from all levels of government coming together to discuss ways to maximize the economic benefits of energy production in the Utica and Marcellus shale formations.

No matter what others think, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., believes there isn't that much cooperation at the federal level.

"You've got 75 percent of the congressional districts that are bulletproof, and (members of Congress) don't have to compromise," he said. "If they take the hard left or the hard right, that's the district they represent and they think they're OK. If you're just thinking about yourself and your politics ... I guess you'll be fine if you just leave it like it is.

"But sooner or later you're going to want to do something, or why in the world are you here? I would think people would have better things to do with their lives than not getting anything done," he continued. "They're supposed to be representing the government and moving it forward. To sit there and watch it deteriorate ... you might as well be watching paint dry."

Manchin co-chairs the new No Labels group with former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Republican. The group is a national citizen-led effort to change attitudes in Washington and make Congress work.

Manchin, a Democrat, has crossed party lines and voted with the Republicans.

"We need to fix our politics from the inside, but we need help from the outside," Manchin said. "No Labels is the only organization out there that can bring people together to demand that both parties put the country's needs ahead of politics. No Labels can set a whole new standard of what's expected from our national leaders. But we need Americans to help us and demand better than what we're getting now.

"This is a great honor to be asked to work with Jon Huntsman to help No Labels become a catalyst for the big changes we need in Washington," Manchin said. "Jon and I come from different parties, but we come from the same background as governors, where you don't worry about politics you worry about your state and its people."



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