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SC congressman cracks open beer during farewell speech

Joe Cunningham of South Carolina had one more thing to say, and he capped it off in a memorable way.

WASHINGTON D.C., DC — South Carolina Rep. Joe Cunningham bid farewell to Congress with a toast to bipartisanship. 

Cunningham, a Democrat from Charleston, gave his final speech of the floor of the U.S. House Tuesday. Cunningham was defeated in the November election, and although some House action may take place before he leaves office, this was his last opportunity to address his colleagues.

As he was finishing, he reached into his coat pocket, pulled out a beer, and raised the canister.

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"In the spirt of bipartisanship and cooperation, I raise this glass to my colleagues both Democrats and Republicans," he said. There was some applause from some members. 

He said his grandfather had always told him you could solve almost any problem by sitting down and having a beer together.

And Cunningham used his brief address to call out what he said were the division and lack of bipartisanship in Congress holding people back from working together, saying those qualities were exceptions rather than the norm. He said when he came to Congress in January of 2019, he made a promise to reach across the aisle. He pointed to legislation that protects shorelines and two bills he worked on that were signed into law by President Trump as some of his accomplishments. 

He called out members who put "party over people," "embraced conspiracy theories, and mocked the president behind his back but praised him to his face, and said he knew why they did it.

"It's been for one reason, and one reason alone: self-preservation," Cunningham said. "People more interested in protecting themselves and their party than protecting our country. More interested in keeping their job that doing their job." 

He said it's created a system where "most politicians can't lose and most Americans can't win." 

Cunningham said he still believes the system isn't broken yet, and called on his colleagues to work toward changing the current hostility. 

"The other side is not the enemy. The enemy is the stubbornness of our own biases. The enemy is a political system that seeks to divide us for sport. Let's fight that and not each other."

It's not the first time he tried to bring beer inside the chamber. In 2019, he attempted to carry a six-pack of beer inside to talk about the merits of craft brewing, but was told that wasn't allowed.

RELATED: SC Rep. Joe Cunningham tried to bring beer onto floor of the U.S. House

Cunningham was a member of the moderate-to-conservative Blue Dog Coalition of Democrats in national office and declined to back Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. He is a former ocean engineer.

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