D.C. insiders, outsiders decry beltway politics
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - Three members of West Virginia's congressional delegation on Thursday expressed contempt for hyperpartisan national politics and emphasized the need to find compromise during the state Chamber of Commerce's annual Business Summit Thursday.
Republican Representatives Shelley Moore Capito and David McKinley, along with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, each acknowledged America's frustration with Congress and pledged to do better before the annual gathering of state business leaders at The Greenbrier.
The U.S. Chamber on Thursday presented Capito and McKinley with their annual "Spirit of Enterprise Award" in recognition of their 100 percent voting record on Chamber issues during the last year in Congress.
Meanwhile, Manchin joined Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor and Republican presidential contender, to promote their "No Labels" nonpartisan organization, which seeks to build common ground among national political leaders.
With Congress currently in recess, they said they've heard from constituents over the break bemoaning the behavior of lawmakers in Washington.
One recent poll indicated Congress had a 9 percent approval rating. Capito joked that that approval was probably coming from the staff and families of members of Congress.
"Quite honestly, people are very frustrated about the tone, tenor and lack of decision making in Washington," she said. "I agree; I'm frustrated too."
McKinley, who said he was one of just 48 members of Congress that actually had experience running a small business, said part of the problem is the fact that lawmakers don't communicate with each other effectively about legislation. Rather, they resort to political maneuvers.
"We don't let people understand and connect with what we're doing . . . to make people understand what are you going to do with this bill, how are you going to affect people," he said.
Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt, who addressed the Chamber on Wednesday, admitted the 24-hour media climate in Washington, D.C., encourages politicians to sacrifice compromise for quick political points.
"I work in a town where people talk about winning the morning," Stirewalt said. "That is some concentrated stupid right there . . . and we have a political journalism that invites politicians to do the wrong thing.
"We are all poorer for it," he said.
Manchin said the atmosphere has created a political machine that has led parties to recruit candidates that are further to the extreme right or left, leaving moderates along the wayside.
"Let me tell you one thing, there's not many of us left in the middle anymore," he said.
Huntsman said his reputation of being able to work across the aisle was one of the things that hurt him during his failed 2012 Republican primary campaign.
"(My campaign) was going well until a guy named Bill Clinton went on TV and said, 'Hey, that Huntsman guy - there's a Republican I can support.' "
Manchin said a recent example of partisan polarity killing compromise was his recent compromise on gun control legislation. He said the bill was set to pass until organizations like the National Rifle Association launched a massive misinformation campaign designed to derail it.
"When they started going crazy, that's basically when they shut everything down," he said.
Manchin and Huntsman said that was why they needed to build grassroots support for organizations like their "No Labels" campaign. The organization has 85 members of Congress, in roughly equal portions from both parties, and is designed to broker common ground and civil discourse on issues.
"It's about elected officials putting country before party," Huntsman said. "That's how we're going to change things."
Contact writer Jared Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4836.