Senators find bipartisan friendship in divisive times

Sens. Angus King and James Lankford discuss how to "disagree without being disagreeable" when reaching across the aisle.
17:14 | 05/17/18

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Transcript for Senators find bipartisan friendship in divisive times
There's an effort. Republicans and caucuses the Democrats here today. Why he may ask. It's because we're going to be talking about things that unite these two guys even though they're on different sides of the I'll. I'm McCain incidentally effort I knew both of you have sorted found ways to connect with people. Who may not share your ideology is where your backgrounds through the great equalizer of a meal. Senator king. You know we look on your insert Graham and find pictures. The barbecue dinners you house me about that. I've I've posted a picture of dirty dishes that got more likes than anything I ever because I described the dinners that we have. What I noticed when I came here to the senate I worked here forty years ago and coming back after that long gap one of the things that's missing is senators don't know each other. Because they all go home every weekend so I decided to put a flag in the ground and say we're gonna try to do something about this so about every six weeks. My office invites a random group before five senators always bipartisan. Pick up ribs beans coleslaw it Kenny smoke house on eight the barrel on and we just chat and talk and get to know one another and it is tonight it's it's just part of building up a little relationships and trust you can't handle tough questions. If you don't trust the other person. Senator link that you attended one at least an attitude and his listeners and had fun again. Conversation there there's this belief somehow that if you have differences of opinion and you can actually talk to each other develop relationships and friendships. That that's toxic to normal life whether your teenager whether you're an adult. Just working for weather and politics. You've got to be able to find out that most the time we agree on most issues. Angus King and I agree on probably 8590%. Of all the issues now the other 10% he's wrong clearly. How that's I was. Let's get to the pearly gates the list will be voted right and voted on. And we have a lot that we can agree on and you can also. People would dignity vocalist confirmation faith background as well when you believe that other people are creating an image of god I have values were. You can respect and dignity of their humanity he when you disagree on some issues so much. A friend of mine once said. You can't hate someone if you know the names of their kids. His daughter's name is Hannah. Good at and that you know I mean and that's how you have to build these kinds of relationships. You mentioned your backgrounds and you've also connected a lot. Weekly prayer breakfast that happen in the senate and I think a lot of people maybe don't know about these in the fact that. It's a place I pretty describe I want senator that they be laid on your armor and disconnect is human beings. What are those the meeting play. Whoever wants. Well let me let me jump in for so they started since 1956. So it's not news. This is going on for decades and decades are senators. Have had a breakfast together at the capitol just we'll talk with their own personal spiritual journey industrial park what their families. We pray for each other we prefer families Rupert what's going on back home as aggrieved as a bipartisan group. I'm able discussing those issues but really the breakfast is not about the issues at home for political issues it's about our personal life about her famous. And it's a way to learn about your your colleagues and I don't is my favorite hour of the week around here tell the truth. Because hey it's a quiet moment in the midst of everything else be. It's it's the only true bipartisan. Event of the week other than official you know committee meetings. And then finally as James mentioned each week at a different by the way there is no precedent of staff. Each week as I get. Yes despite your best ever but a different senator is asked to speak ostensibly about their faith but it's always auto biographical. You learn about their history their parents where they came from. And and that's always fascinating and it ends. With a prayer where everyone joins hands. So you have fifteen funny funny five senators. Praying for each other and for the institution for the country. It's up to moving moment that. It's like nothing else around here that I've experienced. Yeah. We've media. I spent a lot of time thinking about which is why is it that I talk to people like you who have. Strong relationships despite where you were differences on some issues. And yet the things that we've seen things that are emphasized the most coming out of congress coming out of Washington DC. Seem to be things that divide us certainly the media is part of that equation but. But what else. Do you think contributes to that and is what can be done to change the emphasis RNI and the divisions which among people. Conflict sells it's always more interesting the very first story tellers a guy came back in the caves that I got water and that we're all well nobody can. And he came back and said there was a tiger there and almost ate me up everybody paid attention. It's exactly the same thing today conflict is much more interest. Then. Bipartisan bill that went through the senate to reform the veterans frustration that's paid for when read each other's throats that's on the and in its shelves. The country becomes about it. As Washington is an attention to me the number of people that I talked to most say Washington is an anomaly. They're so much conflict there and I'll sponsor gave you read your own FaceBook page lately have you looked at just the normal conversations on social media. You can look at any restaurant. And in your restaurant on the comics page on its people blasting uniting get my fork in time noting refill my glass. This is his attitude it's across the country so Washington is not an anomaly. Washington is a mere we're reflecting really what's happening in the country right now and his people want to see Washington different. Then our own personal life may be different real handle comes. Quite frankly part of our role is to be able to set a good good example for the country's soaking in areas we disagree. We can still treat each other with respect and try to be able find out what can be done what's a good common ground that. That's good for the country that's good for us as individuals and families I'm going to a committee meeting. That won't get any publicity and an hour and a half. Where we're gonna probably report out twenty bills unanimous. At the energy and natural resource is evolving public lands and parks and those kind of things. Bipartisan. I don't I'm hope I'm not jinx they had buttons. That it yeah but it hit it it should be that way. And so I think it's important that the public understands that it's not all warfare. There are conflicts and no doubt about that. But under the under that. Level of high interest issues immigration. Budgets and those kind of things an awful lot gets done on a purely by Carter's. You mentioned immigration. One of the things that has not yet gotten done. But both of you word sort of leaders on this issue in both pursued. Pieces of legislation that CS UI 80%. Intersect. And it was at 20% that couldn't bridge the gap but at the same time. The trump administration president trump. Seem to. Every time he would. Speak on some of that negotiations that were happening behind closed doors he seemed to poison the well a little bit those are my words not yours but. That seemed to be the perception of what was happening I'm talking about the debate over dot that the debate over the young undocumented immigrants seeking his children. I'm. Why. Why is it that do you think that if the president had not been making these comment seems counterproductive. Do you think there could have been an agreement and we may have seen a legislative solution in this action on talk. I'll tempers. I think we still can see a legislative solution on one thing the president did last September as he set a deadline. Of march the fifth. And so that's the date it has to be resolved by saying I'm an in doctor and six months. He actually created something that has not been in congress for a long time that's a deadline. Immigration is hard it's complicated. The senator brought up when he thirteen 2013 gang evade bill it was never even taken up in the house. It's been twenty years to prevent any significant operation debate that finishes and actually become law. Because it's hard in this contentious and until there's a deadline and a moment that it has to be resolved we won't work through that actually gives you conclusion. My concern wasn't as much on the president's coming the presence can be the president he's gonna try to jump in the negotiation his own way. My concern was at the very last moment the court stepped in and hold it back. And said no there's going to be in the courts and let estimated out in the senate basically walked away it's okay if there's no deadline they went on to resolve it we had a moment in the February. Or for bipartisan bills and they were all bipartisan in some level on it. Four bills came up all got voted they all went down. The hope was benign the most the let the record. And I hope have been sent me into that time to take the four of them. To find ways to combine it in the next week bring up the one that wins instead the senate just walked away instead of the courts have got it we won't do the work the work still needs to be done. One of the things that makes it so hard though I've in my experience. If everyone shares the same view of the facts. You can solve almost any problem it's when people have different views of different fat. For example on on the night of state of the union. The president pointed to a family in the in the gallery who have lost a child to an undocumented immigrant to a an attack. That was his sort of view of immigration. That same night I had dinner with the young woman from New Mexico who was a dock who was a dreamer. Who was teacher of the year in New Mexico that's another view of the facts of immigration. I think one of the things that would really help assist if we could just get some. Discussion of okay how many immigrants are there where are they hadn't they get here. What's their employment record what's their criminal record so we're all talking off the same. Page and until we do that I think it's going to be very hard because everybody's. Sort of looking at different parts of the elephant. Yes that's a great analogy I love that county out of I want to switch to another area of policy that the two have you and the rest of the committee has really found common ground and that's the Senate Intelligence Committee. Which has been investigating Russian interference in the election and it seems to be as compared to the house committee. As a bipartisan there isn't the sort of snake thing that we see between Democrats and Republicans that is evident. On the house side. Why do you think that is that there has been such aid a priority put it seems on Friday. Bipartisan work certainly I would imagine that there are disagreements behind closed doors but none of that seems to to be coming out. Of them yes mounds. Well I I think we were very hard because we understand the seriousness of the issue. This is right for the president and for the presidency long term at the end of this whatever becomes of this. We've got to be able to get all the facts on the table and say people of different parties have all looked of these facts because most of the issues will be classified. With how we gather that information they're gonna have to trust us at the end of it to say we're looking at some things that we'll show you as much as we possibly can but we can't show you everything because there are from. Some areas that are classified. When you feel like it's important that he into the investigation. Whichever direction that it goes. It's best for the country if we have some sense of unanimity. Coming out of that committee otherwise there's endless conspiracy theories which we may never be able to avoid will always be somebody saying. There was some Russians have talked to them somewhere in the campaign they'll be there. Forever. But as much as possible today we get a consistent. And to be able to do that the end you gotta start that way beginning. The very beginning we all. Had a very clear understanding of how important sports. That this issue is Bennett is dividing the country now and it could continue to divide the country and to the extent we can do it. On a bipartisan basis it gives credibility to the answers that we come up and also on a practical level. A lot of the success I think rest with Richard burn mark one. They decided to end the top chairman chairman of the Republican chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina who was by the way was at trump advisor during the campaign. And Mark Warner strong Democrat but they've really worked hard and hasn't been all roses and and they had to negotiate work on some things. But they've set the tone for the committee and that I think as a practical matter really helped us. Get where we are we're not there yet but they've managed to hold together a very diverse committee by the way this is homogeneous committee yeah. You got Tom cotton and Ron wide you know you're gonna have different both ends of the spectrum or one. My question is really quite a house and senate have just released there. Views on the assessment of the intelligence committee about whether Russia was really seeking a favorite president from in this election. You've come to two completely different conclusions and thanks him. I never conclusion we look to different time periods episode the house looked at the whole new look good morning fourteen all the way into the final election. And you find that the Russians are supporting all candidates at the beginning and are against all candidates is being they're sowing chaos. We were looking in his last reported just the final months of it where the final month so that the Russians firmly behind from from PC yes they were. I and so they were totally different views they were different time periods and were looking but. The other important thing is and I've made it a point in the last several hearings. To ask virtually every intelligence community witness. Do you support the findings of the report that was issued in January. Seven team. And answers then yes Gina Haskell. That was her friends are just the other day she's from president from nominee to head the CIA we had a nominee for a high ranking position. Intelligence community before our committee two days ago same answer. So basically what we've done is really dug into how the intelligence community made their assessment. And concluded based upon all the we've seen in that. They were right. Let's wrap this up I want to ask you one final question which is highlights and this way by asking what's one thing that you have learned from one another. And I'm putting on the spot here but. Oh. We'll Angus is a long list. I'll start acting up I think it I think my friendship with James is important because. And we all do tend to. Took sort of put people in pigeon holes. If we disagree with a and to find that I can it established a friendship we can joke but one another and get to know there families even though we have very significant differences on some important issues. And that's an important lesson I mean it's it and I NASCAR the problems in American politics. My father used to say you gotta learn to disagree without being disagreeable. And demonizing your opponents. I spoke to a college graduation last week I said don't ever turn. An opponent into an enemy. And I think that our relationship here is really helped me to internalize that way. There there are there moments and Angus and I have disagreed strongly an issue and I don't think I thought I knew you different. To me that's a signal that I'm I'm gonna continue learning he's going to do you want me there are things that I voted on the deeply disappointed that he thought high. I thought I remember yeah I said I really hope you failed to Marcus. Remember however but. Through that is pushed us and our relationship to say okay we we minutes. When we said okay we're trying to maintain a relationship and friendship and to try to be able to maintain a and here we can disagree on issues. I've not had relationships like that before I've had the luxury of being in a setting to say prominent be with friends and people that think like me around me because it's easier. But to be able Libyan relationships here with multiple individuals and obviously with -- well to -- it we're gonna push each other. In areas that we disagree to be able to understand and to be able to hear each other. There's there's one thing in which augment our team all the time. The value of hearing someone and that's not just listening and I heard the words. It's really hearing where they're coming from and try to be able to understand them as much as hearing. And I'm trying to really cut back on the red headed. Plus are tired I'm you know and that's part of what and committing to this rightfully. Remind setting up right behind again. Well that isn't taking an ailing everything you so much for joining me today and how he wrote me and thanks for watching ABC news live.

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

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