Two thousand and thirteen will be an infamous year for Washington politicos. In a sense, this was the year of low expectations. With congressional approval ratings at a low of 6 percent and with the president’s approval rating at record lows, many Americans in 2013 pushed Washington aside, and assumed, rightly so, that they were not capable of doing their jobs.
Congress knew this and played small ball with nominations, budget deals and other pieces of legislation that was crafted not to pick a fight, rather just to keep things moving along. In other words, 2013, in a sense was the political year where after the government shutdown, a weary president and Congress decided to call a truce due to political exhaustion on both sides. Republicans and Democrats alike had no more fight in them.
And as we enter 2014, which finds us in another election year, the question will be whether Democrats and Republicans retreat back to the normal political posture of grandstanding, maneuvering and trying to outfox their enemies on everything from the debt ceiling to the continuation of the rocky roll out of the Affordable Health Care Act.
Sadly, my prediction is that the partisan warfare will be just as heated and twisted as years before, but the stakes are higher with republicans being in the position to take over the Senate.
As 2014 rolls around the comer, what can be done to break the partisan fever? A few suggestions: The party leadership on both sides should commit to allowing the Chairman and Ranking Members of respective committees to craft legislation that depending on which party controls the Chamber, may be more favorable to that party.
For example, republicans control the House, so legislation coming out of the House, although would pass with bipartisan support, would most likely have a bit more conservative language in it and vice versa in the Senate. To be fair and politically realistic, the Democrats control the Senate and White House, so legislation realistically would be more progressive.
But Democrats would be wise to include Speaker Boehner in negotiation, as the country is not truly satisfied with the handling of the economy, health care and other important issues that Democrats got elected on. This bipartisan co legislating would also send a powerful signal that both parties in Congress are at least trying to work together. We saw recently with the passage of the bipartisan budget deal, democrats and republicans can work together even when they have deep partisan differences on policy.
With the benefit of hindsight, we also saw that when the give and takes are done in secret, with no leaks, cameras or hidden agendas in the room, both sides agree more than when they disagree. In other words, when both sides do not have the pressures of answering to their constituents on social media, the 24 hour news cycle, special interest groups and other outside forces, it’s amazing what both sides agree too: legislation that moves the country forward.
Which is ironic isn’t it? It’s like going back to the future. Having professionals sit down and talk to each other to learn about each other’s differences and forging a path forward without the distraction of outside pressures. Now that’s something we all can hope our elected officials do in 2014.
(Follow Robert Traynham on Twitter @roberttraynham.)
Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune
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