16 December 2014

Notes From Norm: Renewing America’s Promise

The passage of the so-called “Cromnibus” — a $1.1 trillion 2015 funding bill – is one of the last gasp acts of the current Congress.

Whether or not this latent display of bipartisan cooperation – Presidential leadership – and compromise – will hold in the early stages of a new Congress in 2015 remains to be seen.

What is clear, however, is that the paradigm of power in 2015 will be decidedly different than 2014.

Gone will be Harry Reid as leader of the United States Senate.  Perhaps the most unnecessarily divisive Senate Majority Leader in history, Reid will be remembered most for his bitter inability to find common ground in one of the most important political institutions in the world.

In his place will be a Senate Majority Leader who understands that history will hold him accountable for what he is able to do to restore comity in the Senate, and more importantly, if he can make the institution functional and relevant.

Mitch McConnell is an unrepentant conservative Republican.  He will use the tools at his disposal to push his, and the agenda of his GOP members, to the forefront of public debate and discourse. 

But McConnell knows there is a time for partisanship, and there is a time for partnership.  He recognizes that the most recent election wasn’t just a repudiation of the policies of the President and his party. 

It is an opportunity for McConnell and his party to show they can use the levers of power to move America forward. 

There are those within his conference that will demand McConnell spend the next two years being an obstructionist.

They divined from the election that voters were sending a subliminal message that they supported shutting down the government and other measures that will keep our federal government incapable of moving beyond dysfunction.

Mitch McConnell understands the difference between being the opposition and being in charge.

McConnell won’t be a Republican Harry Reid. 

And, the country will be better served for it.

On the House side, Speaker John Boehner will have an historic GOP Majority and significant political capital.

The passage of the 2015 funding bill wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t the way government should operate moving forward.  But, it sent a message to those who wish to play with fire in shutting down the federal government that there is a new day in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Between Boehner and McConnell there is a confidence that the first step towards restoring balance between the Legislative and Executive Branch is returning both bodies to a system of regular order.

A system in which bills and ideas are given their proper review and consideration.  Where members on both sides of the aisle are given the appropriate time to put their ideas and opinions forward. 

There was a time when Congress wasn’t simply an institution where bills were hammered together at moments of crisis – and the President disrespected the institution so much he actively sought ways to ignore his obligations and adherence to the Constitution.

McConnell and Boehner will have their hands full come the beginning of the new Congress in January.  There will be pressure from inside and outside their respective conferences to put ideology and politics ahead of public policy and governance.

Not only that, but the remaining members of the diminished House and Senate Democratic Minority are further left and liberal than we have seen in decades. 

They have made it clear they are prepared to use every tactic available to them – including slowing down the Congress and, if necessary, shutting down its capacity to function.

While the efforts of Democrats will likely be hailed as brave, courageous and principled by the one-party media — they will be as destructive to the country as those of Republicans who used the same tactics they accused of being intolerant, shrill and divisive.

Americans aren’t opposed to divided government.  The fact is, divided government has proven it can work – and, if done correctly, can achieve positive results for the future of our country.

They oppose divided government where its leaders are incapable of bridging the divide and finding common ground.

The result of that kind of government is one where compromise is not seen as a dirty word but the true mark of statesmanship.

Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have both promised to be the leaders prepared to make divided government work.

During this season of renewal and hope that’s a gift the entire country is eager to open.