“Why is it when Republicans are in control they have to compromise when others aren’t willing to do it?”
A local member of the GOP asked me that question recently, and I gave him an answer that makes sense to me. Compromise is often the only way to get things done, and that is especially true in the world of politics.
The issue at the time was the agreement forged by President Barack Obama and some Republicans that temporarily extended the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans.
It’s true that Obama and the Democrats weren’t willing to compromise when they passed the health care reform bill. And what the nation ended up with is a law that is still opposed by a majority of Americans.
Parts of the health care reform act should die an early death, but some features are worth saving. And it is going to take compromises to make that happen.
Meanwhile, Republicans who took majority control of the House Wednesday are planning to vote next week to repeal the entire bill. Everyone knows it’s a symbolic gesture because repeal won’t pass the Senate, where Democrats are still in the majority. And total repeal would be vetoed by the president if it did.
Obama calls the repeal effort “political maneuvering.” He said Republicans “are going to play to their base for a certain period of time.”
U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, told The Advocate newspaper he isn’t naive enough to think total repeal will happen. But he believes the good parts can be saved and the rest discarded.
GOP leaders acknowledge they can’t continue to oppose everything Obama wants to do. They will have to compromise, as distasteful as that may be to some in the party.
Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, admitted as much in his Wednesday acceptance speech.
“No longer can we kick the can down the road,” Boehner said. “The people voted to end business as usual, and today we begin carrying out their instructions.”
One of the things Republicans are supposed to do today is read the U.S. Constitution aloud in the House. The Washington Post last week said it has never been done before in the 221-year history of the U.S. House of Representatives.
A tea party organizer told the newspaper, “We’re so far away from our founding principles that, absolutely, this is the very, very tip of the iceberg. We need to talk about and learn about the Constitution daily.”
OK, but how about also remembering that the Constitution we revere today wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for what are known as “The Great Compromises.”
Compromise is not a dirty word. Our Founding Fathers had to give and take to put the document together. Otherwise, they would have gone home with little or nothing.
Roger Sherman of Connecticut came up with a compromise that bears his state’s name. It used portions of the Virginia and New Jersey plans to create a U.S. Senate that has two members from each state and a U.S. House that is based on population.
A Commerce Compromise was designed to satisfy the trade concerns of both the North and South.
Some delegates to the Constitutional Convention wanted a long term for the president and others wanted shorter terms. They compromised.
Many wanted the president to be chosen by Congress, but others wanted a direct popular election. A compromise created the system by which electors appointed by each state legislature would meet and vote for president.
Today, we have a combination of both systems. Electors still cast the deciding votes, but their decisions are based on the popular election outcomes in each state.
“And so it went,” said one American government textbook. “In many ways, and perhaps very important to its great and lasting strength, the Constitution is a ‘bundle of compromises’.”
Is it just talk?
The new Republican leaders are talking a good game.
“The American people have humbled us,” Boehner said. “They have refreshed our memories as to just how temporary the privilege to serve is. This is their Congress. It’s about them, not us.”
Whether the two parties and the president will be willing to compromise to get things done remains to be seen. However, there isn’t a lot of optimism out there among the voters.
U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., took what The Times-Picayune of New Orleans called a “conciliatory start, asking Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., with whom he often feuded during his first term, to escort him to the Senate chamber today for his swearing-in.”
That is one small step, but is it a sign of things to come? For the sake of this country’s future, let’s hope so.
Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, where this piece was first posted, has covered people and politics for more than four decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or [email protected]americanpress.com.