Opposites attract: with Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.)

Delaware Democrat, Georgia Republican talk bipartisanship
22:28 | 07/13/17

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Transcript for Opposites attract: with Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.)
Alley wrote in visit opposites attract where bipartisanship is never a dirty word. I'm joined here by senator Crist and Democrat of Delaware senator Johnny Isaacson Republican of Georgia. Senator Isaacson of the nice enough to turn over office that's where we are for this interview. Now the two of you know have been friends and colleagues for a long time but I thought it was interesting when I first Google. Your two names together can you guess what the first word was that popped up. Felt for the viewers at home you guys are the coach years of the congressional chicken cock. Co founders not discourage it compound it took us a little bit about what the congressional chicken caucus is all about until the work you've done. But giants from the state and it grows more chicken in his state America. And the southernmost county in my state. Is the kind of gross the most boilers. I think America. We were on a trip to Africa. I think pry my first year here. And realize there were some real problems and getting our chicken exported into African markets and decided we pensions and we you do to help the chicken growers are state. And then when we got a chance to renew the African growth and opportunity act which trade agreement with the United States and Africa. We use that negotiation to leverage South Africa which blocking domestic US chicken from going of their country. We open that market. Because of that last year 191000. Metric tons of chicken when in the South Africa in the United States where this week we did to promote the that product being accepted. And when we eat chicken it might be. Thanks to you TO. Or George or Delaware problem and data. I knew it the two of you have also you got to know each other I think it was around 2011. During your work on the African affairs subcommittee can eat meat a little bit about your work there and I know you've traveled together it's well. Start I had I was chairman of the subcommittee it. Chris was new congress. I invited him to go on a photo of a man and god. And one of the country anyway inaccurate went after. We that it Georgia peace corps volunteer who was murdered have been in. I was trying to pursue some justice for her and her family and her mom and by Chris ago and he and I met with the president. And then present you. Met the new victory. His opponent who became the new attorney general. And in. Went back on two separate occasions. And were able to bring some sense of justice to fan his daughter was trashed her in foreign countries we've we've bonded over that of that. Chris had been had a lot of experience now long for aidid. Young person you've been their own line between that experience in it was. The bond that brought us together and skipped. John it was incredibly persistent patient engaged. And and this was pursuing justice for just you know one person but a person from Georgia who died tragically. And the two of us had a lot of fun. Trying to make sure that this guy addressed that this guy taking care I was really impressed by. I just how heartfelt his commitment was to that he didn't just make a phone call it in just sign off a letter he actually personally traveled been in. We had a four hour meeting with president yeah he where the electricity the air conditioning went off about seven I'm waiting for two hours at. It was one of the hottest longest most difficult. Meetings have ever been in and he went back again and he went back again and he kept at it and one of those secrets. To Johnny Isaacson is that. He'll share credit with anybody in order to get something important done he actually crafted and got signed into law. A bill to reform how the peace court handles issues of sexual violence provide security for peace corps volunteers. And there are thousands of peace corps volunteers around the world who will have a better service experience as a result they'll never know Johnny was the person who made that happen. But I've watched him over my now seven years. On several different issue areas whether it's workforce training where it's addressing veterans' needs or issues he is incredibly tireless and patient. And persistent and he gets great stuff to. Now I'd I'd have to say I mean here I you're such respect that the two of you have to reach other. You know it's refreshing to see some bipartisanship. Comity COM ITY in the sense. And but I I got to ask you when you were traveling to get together and Africa. I travel. Cross continental travel. In any case is something that really brings out that true colors of people. You guys have traveled all across Africa together so you know. Do you many experiences on I'm on the road with each Southern Africa that you you cared and die vaults today. Traveling in Africa having United States to totally different items and personal. You never know and after what inconvenience. Genetics. You have to have a good traveler and one good thing is Chris an American travelers is wise and in my lifetime and then when it's on these troops. They tough to doubt forces helped supporters district we've got some great Richards never wrote an adverse experience the wine experience I will tell you about. We were in Ghana we met with John note to enforcement past where few years ago was present got great press. Coca-Cola company which is Georgia company was providing water plants to create create pot of water and countries in Africa that had never a clean water before. Went to a small town in northern Ghana. Where Coca-Cola just put in a treatment package treatment plan. The chief for the tribe had us there set us on the stage next to this big bat which is where the ultraviolet rays of light which used to kill the bacteria. Pedal spec it on the bottom up. They grab a Coke cola paper cup. Film the cup with the water that from the fluent that have been used to be treated for two plain water and said you'll see it takes is stagnant it is. Chris had a glass adequately look agent after this maybe last last we ever have. Separately or together we drank all the way down we circles about untold story plot. Wow that is quite a story to you come home at. In addition to your travels and Africa I know that the two of you spend a lot of time. It together the bipartisan prayer breakfast that happen once a week. Here in congress. How important. Is the ability to connect over matters of faith to the tune you. I think that's a pretty fundamental experience for those of us who view that hours. Best era of the week it's an hour. Where we trust each other and we listen to each those are two things. That just as a broader group here in the senate we just don't do enough and what you hear from other members we can and weekend. His stories about their lives their values their priorities how they got here. Now we focus on the things that can bring us together we hear about each other spam. And about losses about concerns about hopes. It's a chance to get to know each other's people and to get outside some of the Pickering. And frankly if you begin your day holding hands in prayer it's pretty tough to throw a punch each other later. A floor. Absolutely. Why. Why do you think that that's spirit which sounds organic and meaning fault everybody. Why isn't that translates more to what we see out on the senate floor out on the house where every day on TV. Others. The media does lied to cover things are exciting. That's not an exciting experience very personal experience but it's a good and that's not a criticism of the media they got a so there to do it. It's a time where we know there's just committee members of the senate. Usually twenty to thirty of us. There are vitally their weapons at the door and go win and look forward to could have made together. And more often than not things I've been him accomplish in the senate. And been rooted in my honor success that had some men in the prayer breakfast on prayer breakfast and a Workman legislation so. If friendships are sometimes by chemistry or osmosis. But most times their effort. You make the effort to get involved an organization to get know your number. Better experience that there so. I'm. It's it's some nice refreshing again to hear the story it YouTube have working together finding. Places of common ground but we don't sugarcoat it too much I mean there is still there are still them. Policy disagreements that are at part of everyday life here on Capitol Hill one right now is the debate over health care so. I want to ask about and we need to get into the exact. Ins and outs of that. Bill being debated now but did it to you think there are. Areas of common ground that can be reached a line. Health care and an hour we seen that happen anytime soon. My writer hunch. Is that. The American people and that's the represented. Want to see Medicaid and strengthen for the long term. They want to see a way that that it can be fiscally sustainable but that it can continue to provide badly needed health care. For the disabled for seniors children. And that they want to see insurance markets that are that are predictable and that are affordable. How we get through the mechanism by which we get there who's paying the bill how's it managed is there a bigger government role. Federally or state is their private sector will that's where we get that that's where ideologies command. But if you walk into a room to discuss finding a path forward assuming that guy on the other side cares about people. He was elected by the people of Georgia because they see good things in hand. And believing he's got a good heart you're more likely to find a path towards a resolution if you walk in the door assuming that the guy any other side of the table doesn't care about people. And is only here because of this or that negative reason. You knock five or so united feel. Think Grossman group we haven't talked about this openly I'm animal embarrassment it's in right now personal. This is using a huge issue and there are a lot of old wounds that are still open. People were kinda heal old wounds rather I'm people together and build a new future health care. And we've got to get down to the job of doing that and can take kind of things we describe in the prayer breakfast and other things are part. Make the effort to bring people to give the tables and let's leave our differences aside. Let's find out where we agree in common we see what's left was trying to make work it's not not fixing this problem it's not an answer. It's going to be in the end of this session of the congress through next year's election will be the next year's election stroll that would be ashamed. Neither addressed promptly two positive way. And move forward. There it's hard to talk about the legislative discussions that are going on without mentioning the White House and there. Influence or lack thereof but. The tone that is coming out of the Oval Office right. President Tran has made a have it tweeting. In in such a way that I think might have surprised some members of congress who have been here a long time to ask what influence do you think. President trans rhetoric his tone has on. The tone of that congress house right now and does that mean to change. Definition go first. I'm not a Tweeter myself have a designated leader that form. But I think what president trumpet I opened a new communication between the elected official voter nobody ever developed for. All of us are a little taken back but do you think about to have its technology way it is today where you can view the president United States. Can communicate directly with 330 million million people don't have to go through an American meteors do them. That is a great opportunity to bring the American people. Also get your message out. And all of us need to use in a positive constructive way parliament where he finished. To better educate our constituents better respond to we do that present from well they've added a dimension to politics. No presence ever at its communications. Each time there's been an unexpected presidential elections somebody to a sort of jumped ahead have a generation or. Contacts at the time it's because they took advantage of the new communication medium whether it was radio or television. The Internet. Twitter and the directness with which trial mobilized. His voters agree with John it it's transformational. I see us facing a real challenge in learning how to use it in a way that builds up a common sense of purpose and positively. Rather than simply destroyed. When I go on Twitter. You know read people's responses to what I've put out earlier in the day. It is overwhelmingly negative. And that makes it hard to it for me you know the end of the day at union today when I go on social media look at the comments. Some of them are constructive and positive but right now it's it's it's a lot of combating this and I think the anonymity. How people can interact with each other. Make makes it harder for them to focus on building communities rather than destroyed we've got a lot of big challenges as a country we have faced bigger challenges in our past. But if we can't find a way towards each other with this immediacy this directness that communication. And I don't hear positive future force I think we have to find a way to use these tools. To find job. We talked a lot about who. Adam the president and members of congress' ability to reach voters but what about when it comes to talking with one another you know again we see this. Did that very real and meaningful friendship that you have has led to constructive legislation. But that doesn't really seem to translate to a lot of some of the battles that are going on in congress right now when it comes to. The legislative items that are on the table there is there isn't there's a lot of you know. Acerbic. Discourse going on I don't I don't think that's a surprise to anyone that I would think something like. Why you think so much of that. That the friendliness and then and then putting your weapons at the door that you speak up. I mean I know I know some of it is is the media Saleh yeah Colin Powell cop to that but. Is that it is that the only. Ingredient in this Stew that needs to change or what else there. Combination of things have changed and I don't know what the path is to address them parties have gotten weaker. They're Republican Party the Democratic Party as an organization institutions become weaker and weaker. And as the sources of funding for campaigns. And the sources of volunteers for campaigns. Has become dis aggregated. Citizens United opened up a whole new range of individuals making massive contributions to support candidates. And that's changed some first second chief jet travel. That means that senators go home to their districts that states every week and I take the train. But the majority of senators are not raising families here the living here they're going home because now that it's possible which it wasn't fifty years ago. Folks feel an obligation to be home every weekend they can. And in third the pressures of fundraising you know how much is spent on a campaign has gone up dramatically when I've talked to Joseph Biden. Vice President Biden was my predecessor. And he talked about how much he raised and spent six years cycle is now. When I'm racing in one year period and fort truly contested senate races. They're 15100 million dollars that means the amount time spent traveling. To do that fundraising on the country all of that pulls us apart and then the media. Which is no longer in a three big networks but is now hundreds of different channels that further accelerated because your ability to raise money is tied your ability yet on TV. We are you get TV time more combative cable channels and networks all that reinforces. But what I hear in Delaware and my hunch is we're done here in Georgia. The average Delaware arraignment may get a chance to button homing outside grocery store after church. They want me to work across the they want to hear what I've introduced that's bipartisan they won NL alum solving problems. It's great to seeing on TV you know same stuff but they want to know what do to solve problems that's what I hear in in every count much. And should be quite clear as used the term serving this surgery tone and tenor. They United States. Not presents fall thoughtful review debaters. We have a lot of the responsibility. To Arlington. Dollar got to do better job members were ever gonna get body back to. More reasonable negotiating body analysts are. OK let's turn to to add more lighter topics and I noted that to view our neighbors in the senate that right wearing senator Isaacson office right now we see all your. It memorabilia a lot of football football and here and stuff like that. But the to view higher write down the hall from one another. Does that mean to you didn't you tell me do you do you walked two votes together tell me about that. That the great thing about it is we get ran into each other just casually all the time going in and now. And head into the floor back and forth offered first thing in the morning lasting day. John is just east he's easy great company he's always friendly he's always got something positive to say. So even in the toughest day. He's got a he's got a smile on his got a story that you know frankly in it in an environment where that's not always the response you get from other colleagues. It's it's great to have a neighbor who's a friend. Talk you don't need to make it tougher about making enemies in make friends Chris is wrong. For when he got elected I think out one of the first people to go to him and asking. Bi partisan ways we were doing. That's evolved we coaches the ethics committee now we've worked from Africa subcommittee now are Roger good friends now. We've become very good friends over things having the honor and privilege of being service offices. The last question happened here is you know ostensibly you come from very different environments you know George. Southern gentlemen. Delaware Yankee. So what have you what's one thing that you. I've learned from one another. And campaigning on the spot. Well. This this is one of those sort of simple truth but it got power two Johnny helped me get my very first bill passed. I was a brainy freshman I was really having trouble getting a bankruptcy judge should deal done. As. Coburn and Durbin who work in. Right here. Tom Coburn doctor now right ticket chairman I I had a moment where stuff just wasn't gone well and I was presiding at the time my parties in the majority and I looked my face I just had steam coming at a and he came in because I'd just. Had a spectacularly unsuccessful effort in negotiating path toward. Comes out it is gonna. Don't look very happy today and so I explain the whole thing is in the IC package works and a in over the next in half an hour watched as the years to this isn't it arts that listens orbit takes that is. Give me a day I think we can work. That body and the next I mean that bill would not have happened without him figuring out exactly who was willing to move in what way. His ability to happen this conversation. Was rooted in a vary wide range. Senators Republicans and Democrats all across. Are ideologically. Liking him respecting. That takes time. That takes investment that takes kindness. And so things that I couldn't have done legislatively. He could do because he had earned a reputation he's just might favor Republican. He is the favorite senator of dozens of other senators and that's a result of his kindness and Christian atrocities here. Doesn't mean he's not a conservative Republican he has he has. Fiercely held beliefs. But he knows how to work in a way. That allows people to still feel good about him about the relationship with him. At the outcome and any legislative. Not euros or rose kind remarks interpreted but I will tell you this I made older than 35 years selling houses. You never sell anybody else or sell a house for anybody can only something if war is all about filing a way to bring people together and that experienced some allies. That's what I've used in the United States and try and find ways forward and bring people together always make sure when you leave the room ever by at least something. That's come secret. You know that suggests we prime need fewer lawyers and more realtors and sent. But worry wrap up fanatic since it question neo. What's one thing that you have learned from your relationship with us Americans. Chris it was you ran that county government. In Delaware where he came from before he ran the United States and it. When you are a county commissioner or whatever the title is your particular that you run accounting terms sewers and water recreation systems roads. You held the complaint lines when you have hope too much smoke while you learn a lot of mansion handling problems with people working under pressure. Chris it is exhibited showed me so many times where you take a problem that would throw a lot of go back. Instead your response is well here's the answer to make something happen they can his experience in Delaware is experiences account executive. And his overall good nature. Just make it very reasoning but come on a good friends but our family friend were good friends is the nature and him and his leadership. Well thanks to YouTube for joining us senator Chris kids of Delaware senator Johnny Isaacson of Georgia. This has been opposites attract where bipartisanship is never a dirty word I'm Alley wrote and thanks for watching tune in to FaceBook live on ABC throughout today.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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