Stop the monkey business, compromise

October 24, 2013

With the monkey wrench removed, the gears of the federal government began slowly to turn again Thursday. The goal now is to find a fair way to keep them turning.

The job won’t be easy, and it will take some long-overdue cooperation to get it done. Without compromise, however, the country is destined to face the same fractious arguments forcing the same uncertainty about its economic well-being and good standing in the world economy.

Can the country continue this soap opera every three months and expect the economy to recover fully? How long will the voting public allow political gamesmanship to put at risk the world’s strongest economy?

Make no mistake, there is plenty of blame to go around.

Early on, President Obama remained aloof, which might have alienated him with some congressional leaders as well as the rank and file. His air of “I know what’s best” led some to distrust, if not outright dislike, him and his leadership style. In hindsight, he ought to have been more accessible. Maybe some early problems might have been solved if he would have brought Senate and House leaders into private discussions sooner.

On the other hand, the minority tea party branch in the House, along with some senators, all but held the country hostage to unreasonable demands that the Affordable Care Act be defunded or lamed. It was, of course, a futile effort that was condemned by experienced Republicans in both the Senate and the House.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and other members were highly critical of the strategy and correctly predicted its failure.

The only member of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation to vote to end the shutdown and extend the debt ceiling was Rep. Tom Cole. Oklahoma senior Sen. Jim Inhofe was recovering from heart surgery and did not vote.

Now, we must move on. Republicans and Democrats must understand that a bipartisan approach — meaning that each side will have to surrender something — is the only way for either side to accomplish anything.

Compromise is not a dirty word. It’s the way of life and practical politics.

The Senate and House must come together to hammer out a long-overdue budget that can be presented to the president. Legitimate demands from both sides need a fair hearing. Neither party can afford to scuttle a conference committee that sets about that task.

The tea party Republicans must realize that they are not going to overturn the Affordable Care Act as long as Democrats control the Senate and a Democrat lives in the White House.

The president must realize that his health-care law is imperfect and concessions to improve it can allow the nation to progress. The law’s tax on medical devices is confusing and punitive on the ill during their time of need. Removing the tax would not hamstring the Affordable Care Act’s mission. In fact, it would make it more humane.

On a broader front, the president and Democrats need to bring entitlement reform to the table, as a concession to the Republicans and for the good of the country.

The overwhelming majority of polls show that Americans are tired of the bickering in Congress and the White House. The popularity of Congress is at an all-time low. Most of the poll responders blame Republicans, but Democrats shouldn’t feel too sanguine. They are only one crisis away from having the tables turned.

The country cannot continue down the path of the past several weeks. It’s only result can be public cynicism, apathy and bad government.

The next crisis is already ticking. Another government shutdown looms on Jan. 15. The debt ceiling comes due a few weeks later.

A long-term solution is possible and Washington has a chance to prove it can govern effectively and in the nation’s best interest.

Fix the machine that is government. No more monkey wrenches.

— Tulsa World