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OPINION: Hope for a More Effective Congress

New evidence of relationship building and compromise that emerged as part of deliberations to avert the fiscal cliff are clearly a positive development that must be replicated throughout Congress.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the various events associated with the opening of the 113th session of Congress. As a guest of Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland's Congressman for the Eighth District, I was able to witness first-hand this biennial tradition. Those representatives and senators who were either re-elected or were selected by the voters of their respective districts for the first time will now begin the challenging task of helping to govern our great nation.

Like many others, I hope that the next two-year session of Congress will ultimately prove to be far more productive than the session that just concluded. Looking back, the ineffectiveness of the 112th session of Congress will certainly be seen as legendary, rivaled only by the gridlock seen in the "do-nothing" 80th Congress. Legislators during that session (which ran from 1947 until 1949), worked to obstruct President Harry Truman's attempts to enact pragmatic programs meant to ensure both domestic prosperity and international security for the United States. 

I am however cautiously optimistic that things could change in 2013. A series of developments took place within the U.S. Senate that offer a glimmer of hope that some legislators may wish to take a different path. In the depths of the acrimony associated with seeking to avert the so-called fiscal cliff two individuals sought to move beyond the rancor. 

Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell worked together to craft a compromise that was acceptable to senators from both sides of the aisle. In the end, this proposal—enacted as the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012—was approved on an 89-8 vote in the Senate and a 257-167 vote in the House of Representatives. While neither side got everything they wanted, both sides could claim credit for helping to avert a larger crisis.

What Biden and McConnell chose to do was to put their politics aside and rely upon the mutual respect and personal relationship they had developed as a consequence of serving together in the Senate for nearly twenty-five years. This was certainly the correct approach. While there will always be real differences of opinion regarding policy matters in our republic, we must not let these differences overwhelm us. If Americans—both those in elected office and citizens generally—continue to view those they disagree with as somehow "evil or villainous" because they see things another way, then we will never rise above our differences.

I believe that there are legislators in the House of Representatives who would also prefer to employ the collaborative approach used by Biden and McConnell.  In remarks made after being sworn in for his sixth term, Representative Van Hollen noted that "Congress needs to be a group of people that come together to find real solutions to difficult problems." Let's hope that most of his colleagues can agree with this statement, and do what is necessary to live by it.

FIFA January 08, 2013 at 11:24 PM
OT, the tax cuts in 2001 should have never happened. They were a payoff to the wealthy. They then become an "entitlement" when they are scheduled to expire.
FIFA January 09, 2013 at 08:21 PM
Sorry OT my reply appears to have been held up in permanent "pending approval", it follows: OT, I have been "good". But words like "gazillion" irritate me. Perhaps a flaw in my personality. "Enough" is never enough in my mind when it comes to the wealthy. When the Walton family net worth (top 6 members) is equal to over the total net worth of the bottom 40% of Americans, something is incredibly wrong. Yes, one family's wealth equals the total wealth of more than the bottom 40%. What do you think about that OT? Okay or is something smelly? Go check my numbers, we are a sick society when it comes to extreme wealth. Of course your number, if true as I have yet to check it, excludes the payroll taxes paid by workers as they are not "income" taxes but those taxes for Medicare and SS are considered "entitlements" and are the first on the list of the Repubs to cut benefits.
Chris Megert January 09, 2013 at 08:44 PM
I read the idea 4 years ago and sat and thought about the small company I ran and how making payroll monthly wasn't always easy. Many months we 3 owners went without! Feel free do the math my point was only food for thought. I believe all American people have thoughts and ideas worth discussion. Regards
FIFA January 09, 2013 at 08:57 PM
Chris, although you may have proposed some changes I may agree with, you failed to answer my basic question, which is what is the total of all of your proposed cuts? You quote an $8 Billion number plus some other cuts from retirement benefits it appears. That said, I'll give you a $10 Billion number just to give room for ample cushion. You state you run a small business, I hope you are better at math than what you have proposed. The US deficit problem is $1.2 Trillion (with a T), you have just described less than 1% savings. We still have a 99%+ problem. Please don't respond with "at least it is a start".
Chris Megert January 09, 2013 at 11:44 PM
Ran a small business. The problem can't be fixed tomorrow however I don't think the smartest folks are going to solve any issue unless the.incentive is lower the debt increase income for the Country. If I thought my voice would be heard I'd work on it in more depth feel free to help me see what I am missing. Yes it's a start. Sorry

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