How Reps. Steve Scalise and Cedric Richmond disagree without being disagreeable

Rep. Steve Scalise and Rep. Cedric Richmond may at first seem to have little in common other than the fact that they both represent Louisiana. 

But the Republican whip and the leader of the Congressional Black Caucus have managed to forge a friendship that has transcended and outlasted intense political differences -- and baseball team divisions, the two told "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan. In what they see as one of the most politically divided times in the nation's history, and even as they battle out their differences in Congress -- and on the field in the annual congressional baseball game -- they've found a way to disagree, without being disagreeable. 

They now hold two of the most powerful positions on either side of the aisle in Congress. But the friendship began in the Louisiana statehouse, where they also once held positions of influence. Back then, Richmond said, they had to not just fight over policy, but figure out solutions. 

"Well, that goes back to the legislature and I think at that time I may have been chair of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus and Steve at some point was the leader on the Republican side," Richmond said. "But in Louisiana our needs were so great that we really didn't have time when we were in the state legislature to be partisan. Because every day we were trying to figure out how to best help uplift, educate, and take care of the people of Louisiana. And, in the state legislature when you finish fighting during the day, you actually get together in the evening and you find out that what you want is more similar than not, you just disagree on how to get there."

Scalise agreed. 

"Yeah, we really have had a deep-rooted friendship that goes back and it transcends our politics because obviously, if you look at how we vote, it's pretty much the opposite on most major issues," Scalise said, adding that it "shows you that you can disagree with people."

The GOP whip said he thinks his friendship with Richmond has grown even stronger since they entered Congress. He hopes it's a model others can emulate -- to form bonds with people who don't think like they do. The key, Scalise said, is not to turn political disagreements into personal ones. 

"We're a divided nation right now," Scalise said. "But, if you look back at the history of our country, I mean, our founders set up a system of government where, with the rights of free speech, the ability, you can go out and disagree with people and you can actually express those disagreements. In many countries you can't. The difference is you, number one, you should never make those disagreements personal. But there's no excuse, it's completely unacceptable, to resort to violence to try to resolve some kind of disagreement when you have somebody with, that you have with them politically."

And the two certainly do disagree -- on the solution for health care, the GOP tax bill, immigration and which party will hold the House after November. Scalise's name has been floated as a possible successor to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who isn't running for reelection. 

"Yeah, I want him to be the head Republican," Richmond said of Scalise. "I do. I just want him to be in the minority."

"Cedric would make a great minority leader," Scalise quipped. 

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.