In his farewell speech to Congress on Thursday, freshman Representative Joe Cunningham of South Carolina made it one for the road, cracking open a can of beer in a toast to his fellow members as he signed off from his one term in office.
The Democrat called for members of both parties to do a better job of working together for the sake of the country as he noted his own achievements in crossing the aisle, claiming the ‘other side is not the enemy’.
But Cunningham, 38, also used his last words as a congressman to call out what he believes is the hypocrisy and divisiveness of other House members.
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South Carolina Rep. Joe Cunningham cracked open a beer at the end of his farewell speech
Cunningham, a Democrat, lost his reelection campaign to a Republican in November
‘In my short tenure, I’ve been disappointed with a lot that I’ve encountered,’ Cunningham said.
‘I’ve seen members mock the president behind his back, and praise him to his face. Loathe him in private, and worship him on television.
‘For the betterment of this country, we have to come together, we have to sit down and listen to each other, and maybe even have a beer,’ Cunningham concluded, reaching into his suit jacket and pulling out a can.
‘In the spirit of bipartisanship, of cooperation, I raise this glass to my colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans.’
Cunningham, pictured with Rep Rashida Tlaib, was considered a prominent bipartisan voice in the House and used his farewell speech to encourage more people to cross the aisle
The Post and Courier noted that Cunningham didn’t take a sip of the beer, which they identified as a DC Brau pale ale called Joint Resolution, as alcohol is prohibited on the floor.
In his remarks, Cunningham also called out politicians who ‘consistently put their party ahead of their own people,’ a reflection on his ‘Lowcountry over Party’ campaign slogan.
‘I’ve seen them intentionally spread misinformation and lies, flirt with white supremacists, and pander to the most extreme voices in our society,’ he claimed.
‘And it’s been for one reason and one reason alone: self-preservation. People more interested in protecting themselves and their party than protecting our country.
‘I’ve been trying to work with people since the first day I got here,’ continued Cunningham, who has received plaudits from several groups for his bipartisan work.
The congressman had hidden the beer in the front pocket of his jacket
The beer has since been identified as a DC Brau pale ale called Joint Resolution
He noted that President Donald Trump has signed two of his bills into law.
Cunningham was ranked the fourth-most bipartisan member in Congress by the Lugar Center, according to the Post and Courier.
It wasn’t the first time Cunningham – who made brewery stops throughout the 1st District part of his campaign routine – has involved beer in his official duties.
In 2019, the freshman was stopped from bringing a six-pack of beer onto the House floor because alcohol is prohibited.
At the time, Cunningham said he was trying to give a collection of South Carolina brews to Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat Oregon, who is co-chairman of the House´s Small Brewer’s Caucus.
‘Making friends when you’re a freshman is hard and I thought I’d grease the skids with some Lowcountry beer,’ he joked on Twitter after the incident.
‘Thankfully @RepPeterDeFazio got it in the end! Can I join the beer caucus now?’
The 36-year-old freshman joked that ‘making friends is hard’ when addressing the incident on Twitter, explaining they were a gift for Oregon Democratic rep Peter DeFazio
Cunningham’s 2018 flip of the coastal district from red to blue placed the area, which runs from Charleston to Beaufort, in Democratic hands for the first time in decades.
He lost his bid for a second term to Republican Nancy Mace in November as a Republican wave of victories through the state recaptured the 1st District for the GOP.
He had kept a low profile since his loss after waiting three days to concede the race.
On Thursday, Cunningham waxed philosophical as he recalled reflecting on his loss during a Thanksgiving beach walk with his son.
‘It became apparent that political victories and losses are as transient and vulnerable as my son’s sandcastle on the beach, especially in a district like ours,’ Cunningham said, noting that Trump carried the district by double digits in 2016.
‘We made it here by promising something different, by promising to work with one another, reach across the aisle, listen to those we may not agree with, and get things done.’
Cunningham’s last day in office will be January 3 when Mace will be sworn in.
Mace has since commented ‘I’ll drink to that’ response to his farewell speech.
‘Thank you, Rep. Cunningham for your service,’ she said. ‘Best of luck to you and your future endeavors’