Making Congress work a little better, or at least not so miserably badly, would not be that difficult. Really, we just need to change the meaning of one word.
The word is “compromise.”
Right now, to too many people in Washington, “compromise” is defined as “sell-out.” Especially among Republicans, having your name appear in the same sentence as the word “compromise” can get you denounced on talk radio, swamped by a wave of furious phone calls and possibly getting a well-financed primary opponent. With Democrats, the stakes aren’t quite so high, but willingness to make a deal with Republicans can draw a truckload of Internet outrage – even if you happen to be president.
As a result, it’s a lot easier – and politically safer – to go home and announce proudly that since you couldn’t get everything you wanted, you went to Congress and did nothing. It’s good for your career, although dramatically bad for the country.
So Congress does nothing about long-term budget problems, immigration or health care reform – and warns the president not to do anything, either.
For the next two years, we’ll have a Democratic president, a Republican House, and a closely divided Senate. Either they all accept that they won’t get everything, or once again we’ll get nothing.
NOTE: This commentary appeared on KGW-TV Saturday, 8/9/14.