Rival senators join forces but only for reality TV

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SHAFAQNA – It is a scenario long dreamt of by Americans weary of party divisions: a Democrat and a Republican sitting down together to work out a joint solution to a looming crisis. Now, two senators are seeking to prove that such a scene is perfectly possible — not on Capitol Hill but on a desert island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Jeff Flake, a Republican, and Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, are the stars of a reality television show in which they are stranded on the Marshall Islands for a week and have to live off the land to survive. They join forces to find food and water, build a shelter and avoid the hazards of the inhospitable terrain.

“We wanted to make the point that Republicans and Democrats can work together,” said Mr Flake, who made the 7,000-mile journey to the island of Eru with Mr Heinrich during Congress’s August recess. Clips released from the programme, which will be broadcast next month on the Discovery Channel, show them spearfishing, catching clams and chopping coconuts for water.

“Republicans are better at killing and Democrats are better at eating,” Mr Flake said. On their first day, they had to build a shelter out of palm fronds before a tropical thunderstorm arrived — a task not entirely dissimilar from tackling difficult legislation against the clock, they noted. “It was my first time sleeping with a Democrat,” Mr Flake remarks in one clip.

The pair, who say that they paid for the trip themselves to ensure that the adventure met congressional ethics standards, are keen to impart their new-found wisdom to their colleagues amid fears that government in Washington will be even more divided if Republicans gain control of the Senate in the midterm elections in November.

“One of the reasons this town is having such a hard time functioning is not so much that people are in different places but they don’t trust each other,” said Mr Heinrich, from New Mexico. “The six days we spent on the island did a lot to bolster our trust in each other.”

Mr Flake, who is from Arizona, added: “I think we solved every problem . . . except how to build a fire.” It was vital that politicians build personal bonds to overcome party tensions, they said, calling for the House and Senate leaders to undertake similar ventures.

“If they would spend six days and nights on an island, we could move legislation forward,” Mr Flake said.

The pair rejected suggestions that they had diminished their office by appearing on the programme.

Source : http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/americas/article4212435.ece

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