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Editorial: Congress needs to build on 'common sense' caucus

Oct. 23, 2013 @ 08:42 AM

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.
 

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