Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

December 15, 2013

A promising start on compromise

— — Just over a month ago, following the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey, I penned in this column that I thought one of the things we as a nation would garner from the outcomes in those two states would be those in Congress working and achieving compromises.

True to my prediction the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget bill by an overwhelming margin.

Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, a Republican, and Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington state, put together a plan that passed the House on Thursday. The next step is the Senate, which is expected to address the bill later this week.

The final tally on the measure was 332-94. In the vote, 169 Republicans voted for the spending plan while 62 opposed it, with 163 Democrats in favor and 32 against.  While neither the White House nor Republicans got everything they want in the bill, it is a step forward.

Now assuming the House agreement passes the Senate, and it is expected to be approved by a somewhat narrow margin, what will it mean?

First, there will not be a government shutdown for at least two years. The government is funded for that period of time. Second there are $85 billion in savings and $20 billion in deficit reduction.

“Is it perfect? Does it go far enough? No, not at all,” Speaker of the House John Boehner said in urging his colleagues to back the plan, noting it resulted from “doing what the American people expect us to do — coming together and finding common ground.”

Democrats expressed the same sentiment, that it was not what they wanted but it is a step in the right direction.

The White House supports the compromise, but factions on both sides still pushed for change as the issue moved closer to decisive votes.

Liberal Democrats insist the budget plan should extend long-term unemployment benefits set to expire at the end of the year. However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the issue would be considered separately in 2014.

Some conservatives complain the total is more than the level called for in the Budget Control Act that followed brinksmanship negotiations two years ago over raising the federal borrowing limit.

Why are parties now coming to agreement on issues facing them?

There are two reasons. First, we are entering an election year. Second is self-preservation.

Regardless of which side of the aisle one is seated in the Congress, a move to the center is needed for election. We see this year after year after year, the exception possibly being the mid-term elections in 2010 when the Tea Party made significant gains. We see it every four years in the presidential primaries where the extreme right and left control the primary contests, but the center elects the president. Every four years there is a movement after the party conventions by candidates to court those in the middle who determine the election.

Election year politics is oftentimes when the most gets accomplished.

Self-preservation is linked to re-election. There are many who believe there should be term limits to weed out the so-called lifetime politicians. I disagree. We already have term limits, they are called elections. In fact, I think the term limits should be lifted for all offices from city council member to president of the United States. You want someone out of office, vote them out.

Those on the right would have loved to have seen a third term for Ronald Reagan, while the left would have been giddy for a third Bill Clinton administration ... and there were movements in Congress that never got past the committee level, by Republicans during the Reagan years and Democrats in the Clinton years to amend the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution to repeal the two-term limit on the POTUS.

As we head into 2014, a year in which one-third of the U.S. Senate and the entire House of Representatives faces the electorate, I believe that we will see even more cooperation between the Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill.

The budget agreement is a start. Let’s see what else can be accomplished. Looking at approval ratings and public confidence in our officials in Washington, D.C., there is nowhere to go but up.

Bob Redd is a Daily Telegraph sports writer and editorial page columnist. Contact him at bredd@bdtonline.com.

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