As you can see in the photos below, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., likes to walk and talk and negotiate with Republicans. These are more or less photo ops, but they send a powerful message to the people: Politics involves negotiations, guts and old-fashioned getting along. I can’t think of another Democrat who has had the same record recently of finding compromise with members of the opposing party.
Last Wednesday, Murray successfully sponsored a bill to revamp the nation’s outdated workforce development and education training programs. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was the result of bipartisan, bicameral negotiations. Murray’s co-sponsor on the measure is U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who just happens to have an office right next door to Murray. Spokesman Sean Coit says his boss and Isakson often walk together to the Capitol. Once in a while, those jaunts lead to bills that help millions of Americans. In this case, the WIOA passed with overwhelming support from members of both parties. The lesson: every step counts.
This isn’t the first time Murray has forged consensus with an unlikely ally. In 2013, she reached a budget deal with a conservative darling and the chair of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Gee, look. They liked to walk together, too.
In January, Murray gave Ryan a Seahawks jersey on Jan. 9 as a token of her appreciation for his efforts during the budget negotiations. The two share a love for football and told reporters they often invoked the name of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (who played at the University of Wisconsin) during talks. Never underestimate the value of finding common ground.
About a year ago, the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill that remains stalled in the House. Maybe Murray needs to hike around the Hill with a few House Republicans to get the legislation moving again.
Who’s obviously not going for walks in the Beltway? These two.
President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner should take a cue from Murray’s book and put on their gym shoes, because the sight of them standing near each other is just painful. To make things worse, Boehner announced plans last week to sue the president for essentially doing his job. Come on, Mr. President and Mr. Speaker. Walk it out.
How to fix this broken relationship? Bloomberg View columnist Margaret Carlson brings up this point in a Jan. 2013 piece about Obama’s refusal to socialize with members of Congress.
Part of the reason there are many fewer relationships these days is that so few members bring their families to Washington (that was a rare sighting of Boehner’s wife at the inaugural lunch). Members work three days and then fly home to raise funds. The possibility of friendships disappeared long before Obama decided to socialize with friends he already had and spend quality time with his family.
There’s yet another rationale for getting money out of politics. But I also once heard Washington insider, journalist and former political aide Chris Matthews decry former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s advice for congressional members to leave their families in their home districts. A lot has changed in D.C. since the 1980s, when President Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill famously set aside politics after 6 p.m.
Will the aides for Obama and Boehner please make them watch these poignant examples of how adversaries (who occupied their exact positions) could get along?
Here’s a short clip of Reagan talking about that 6 p.m. rule via YouTube user Jim Heath:
And here’s a seven-minute clip of Reagan toasting O’Neill in 1986, courtesy of the Reagan Foundation: “In addition to celebrating a country and a friendship, I wanted to come here tonight to join you in saluting Tip O’Neill,” he said.
And finally, here’s a five-minute video with Chris Matthews talking about the political lessons he learned from watching Reagan and O’Neill. Chiefly, the two did not undermine each other when representing U.S. interests toward the end of the Cold War.