Editorial: Congress needs to build on 'common sense' caucus
There was little encouraging about the 16-day partial government shutdown that ended last week.
But at least when the deadline for possible default on the nation’s debt was upon us, a small group of lawmakers remembered how to comprom ise .
Moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is credited with building the key coalition for that effort with 14 senators — seven Republicans, six Democrats and one independent. We applaud West Virginia’s Joe Manchin for being the first Democrat to join that effort.
That group of 14 drafted the four major provisions that were the template of the deal — creating a conference committee to report back in mid-December on a fiscal plan, funding the government until Jan.
15, extending the debt limit until Feb. 7 and requiring verification to prevent fraud among people applying for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act health exchanges.
Collins called it the “common sense” caucus.
“I think most people in this country are centrists and they want pragmatic solutions to problems,” Collins told The Associated Press.
“They want the application of common sense.” But can leaders build on that coalition? We certainly hope so.
“The bottom line is that we managed to avoid this self-inflicted wound to the national and global economy, but it is past time for America to get its financial house in order,” Manchin said Wednesday. “We need a bipartisan, big fix like the Bowles-Simpson template that focuses on spending, revenue and refor m .” But expectations are not high.
The leaders of the House-Senate conference committee, chaired by Republican Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, met Thursday for the first time with no “big-fix” promises. Just to reconcile the House and Senate budgets, they will have to bridge the gap between Democrats’ hopes for more revenue and Republican demands for deficit reduction. Ryan and Murray pledge to look for common ground, but they will have to bend a little to find it .
That is all the more difficult when the blame game and verbal assaults start right up again.
Even when calling for compromise Thursday, President Obama could not pass up the chance to blame Republicans for the shutdown, which he said has “encouraged our enemies.” How does that type of rhetoric help?
Meanwhile, Republicans who voted to end the shutdown are being attacked from the right wing of their own party. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is being chastised as a “fake conservative,” and the Senate Conservatives Fund PAC has endorsed his challenger in next spring’s Republican pr i m a r y.
Unless the public demands a more moderate approach, we will be facing another standoff in January.
The Herald-Dispatch welcomes your comments on this article, but please be civil. Avoid profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, accusations of criminal activity, name-calling or insults to the other posters. Herald-dispatch.com does not control or monitor comments as they are posted, but if you find a comment offensive or uncivil, hover your mouse over the comment and click the X that appears in the upper right of the comment. If you do not want your comment to post to your personal Facebook page, uncheck the box below the comment.