Compromise an ‘iffy’ word
The Founding Fathers created a legislative branch with two bodies, and an independently elected chief executive with veto power, because they didn’t want it to be easy for a transient majority to ram legislation through.
But it seems unlikely they meant for it to be this hard. Obama has been beating his head against a recalcitrant Republican House majority for weeks.
He’s trying to raise the federal debt ceiling to keep from running up hundreds of millions of needless bills from a government shutdown, and to keep America’s credit rating from being downgraded, which would cost billions more, and scare our creditors.
He has been making what seems to be a good-faith effort to meet the Republicans’ expressed desire for spending cuts, while trying to satisfy Democrats with some revenue increases and saving some programs.
The Founding Fathers probably didn’t envision the problems that a system designed to represent the popular will – the U. S. House of Representatives – could get frozen up by rampant partisanship.
A major reason is structural. Through a series of well-meaning bills and decisions by the U. S. Supreme Court, coupled with intense partisan behavior, the re-drawing of House district boundaries every 10 years to account for population shifts has become a nightmare.
(In Texas, redistricting sometimes comes more often than once a decade – usually due to court decisions. But in 2003, it was due to the desire of former U.S. House Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay, then-Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick and Gov. Rick Perry to junk a court-drawn plan and draw a new one to throw out senior Democrats and pad the Republican congressional majority.)
The redistricting process has been commandeered in Texas and other states by the party in control at the time to help their side and punish the other side. The result is that most congressional elections are now decided in party primaries, not the general election.
Many Republican districts have been pushed to the right, while the remaining Democratic districts are pushed to the left. So an issue stance that might appeal to independents and the other party in a general election can get a candidate killed in his own party primary.
So that leaves us with a House with many members at opposite ends of the political spectrum. Plus the new Republican House majority includes several dozen new members, elected with the help of Tea Party backers, who think “compromise” is a dirty word.
For a president to find the middle in that kind of situation is very, very tough.
But, you’ve also go to sympathize a little bit with House Speaker John Boehner. He’s speaker because of all those new Republican Tea Partiers. But Boehner has a herd of mavericks by their tails, and trying to train them to behave is producing a lot of injured cowpokes and busted corrals.
What to do about the system is another question entirely. Republican state Sen. Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio again pursued his biennial effort of almost two decades to try to get Texas to join a half dozen other states in setting up a commission to perform congressional redistricting.
Wentworth has been trying to get the redistricting process removed from the politics of the Legislature. But even though the Texas Senate has passed it a couple of times, it’s always died in the House. And this year, Wentworth couldn’t muster the two-thirds Senate vote to bring it to the floor.
One reason is the Republicans now have a 19-12 edge in the Senate over the Democrats. A Republican state representative noted privately that partisan Republicans question why Wentworth is still pushing the commission idea, now that their party is in control of drawing the lines.
By the time you read this, the debt limit debate hopefully will be over, and the country’s AAA credit rating on its debt preserved.
Whether it has or hasn’t, the die-hards in the U.S. House, at the opposite ends of the political spectrum, are unlikely to begin reaching amicable compromises enough to link arms and break into “Kumbya” anytime soon.
And it’s hard to know how to fix the system, when those who would be responsible for doing it were elected under that selfsame system.
Good luck, Mr. President. If you can swing this, you might have the moxie to negotiate peace to the Middle East.
And So On. . . . Upon hearing that Gov. Rick Perry says he was “called” to run for president, one wag said, “I hate crank calls.”
Contact McNeely at firstname.lastname@example.org or (512) 458- 2963.