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JP Grace: Washington may be adopting 'get 'er done' attitude

Mar. 18, 2013 @ 10:50 PM

Washington's longstanding politics of confrontation seem to be thawing and giving way to a more practical politics of "Get 'er done." A large chunk of the voting population, including yours truly, are looking on in wonderment and sighing, "'Bout time."

Let's take stock.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's recent filibuster against the prospect of using drones on U.S. soil against American citizens "shook philosophical categories in a remarkably healthy way," as columnist E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post put it.

GOP senate colleagues John McCain of Arizone and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina chided Paul and defended the Obama administration having wide-open options. Meanwhile Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and such leftwing columnists as Eugene Robinson cheered on Paul for the filibuster and Paul's demand for clarification on drone policy.

In effect, the administration caved when Attorney General Eric Holder sent Paul a short letter stating that the White House would agree to no drone use stateside against U.S. citizens when no terrorist action was imminent.

In the same time frame, President Obama first met with McCain and Graham at the White House on immigration policy, a meeting that, according to the GOP twosome, went swimmingly well, and then had Graham put together a dinner at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington on budget discussions.

This Graham said he was honored to do. And so Obama met with Graham and 11 other Republican senators on how to shape fiscal policies for the months and years ahead. By all reports cordiality abounded and the way was paved for further productive talks.

Recall as well that the fiscal cliff was averted in early January when Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, engineered a vote with a majority of Democrats and a minority of his Republican colleagues to raise income taxes on individuals earning more than $400,000 a year. This of course rode roughshod over the "no-new-taxes" pledge Boehner and so many other GOPers had signed with Grover Norquist

Coming up soon in Congress will be a series of votes on comprehensive immigration reform and amended gun control provisions that also will likely be ushered into law through bipartisan coalitions.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and McCain will be spurring their GOP colleagues to support a reform leading to legal status and possibly future citizenship for the 12 million illegals currently residing in the United States. This is something Obama has been rooting for since his election in 2008.

Meanwhile, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has been figuring prominently in pending legislation on universal background checks for gun purchases, much to the despair of the National Rifle Association, whose interests he has so often championed in the past.

Admittedly, there has been a great deal more bipartisan spirit emerging in the U.S. Senate than in the other Capitol body that Boehner captains. One hope, however is that the Senate spirit may become contagious, especially since Corporate America appears to be solidly behind the kind of "grand bargain" on tax and revenue reform that Obama and Boehner almost brought off two years ago.

The betting in this column is that Obama and Boehner will succeed in re-creating some form of that grand bargain, closing loopholes that allow Big Oil and Big Agriculture to amass tax-break windfalls, reforming Medicare and Medicaid and probably to some extent Social Security. The lower-income categories will likely be protected in these reforms but middle- and upper-income people may lose some benefits.

Deficit reduction, job growth and a much more stable economy, however, should result from entitlement reforms. And that will be good for us all.

John Patrick Grace is a Huntington-based book editor and publisher and teaches The Life Writing Class. He formerly worked as a reporter in Chicago, an editor in New York and a correspondent in Rome for The Associated Press.

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