Sen. Tim Kaine wields a mean harmonica at Floyd jam session
Monday, July 22, 2013
By David Ress
During the second bluegrass piece that the senator joined in on, a waitress and a friend came out flatfoot dancing; by the fourth, Sen. Tim Kaine had ditched his BlackBerry, and at a nod from banjo player Alan Graf, took up the melody line to the song “New River Train” on his harmonica.
Deep in the heart of reddest Virginia, the state’s junior, and definitively Democratic, U.S. senator was doing one of his favorite things: listening carefully, then unobtrusively joining in with the music.
It’s not too much different from what he does in Washington, he explained a few minutes before sitting in on the Sunday afternoon jam at the Floyd Country Store.
When he went to Washington six months ago, Kaine kept saying he wanted to try to break down some of the partisan walls that keep the government gridlocked.
Six months on, he said, he sees signs of progress. The roots are pretty simple — and social. From casual, friendly contact, he and the Senate’s other newcomers are finding they have much in common.
The rest of the Senate got a reminder of that earlier this month when members gathered and finally fended off a showdown over filibuster rules.
A key icebreaker in that session came when Kaine’s Russell Senate Office Building neighbor, Texas Republican Ted Cruz , stood up to say the Virginian “had gotten into political trouble by being nice to me,” as Kaine tells the story.
He joined up with fellow Senate newcomer Deb Fischer, R-Neb., on a recent trip to Afghanistan and the Middle East, and has won backing from several Republicans for his first major bill, which would make it easier for military personnel to win civilian credentials for their service training.
He and GOP stalwart John McCain have joined forces in an effort to clarify the status of the War Powers Act and the president’s responsibility to consult with Congress over foreign interventions by U.S. forces.
It seems as unforced as the way Kaine makes music.
“I can kind of keep up,” he says.
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