I don’t know about you, but my previous post depressed me. When it comes to figuring out a way for congress to actually come to grips with our federal fiscal problems, what comes to mind is the phrase: You can’t get there from here.
However, I do recall the advice of someone who said: “Look for the good in everything,” words that come to mind during situations like this. So, trying to buck myself up this morning, I’m looking for the positive wherever I can find it.
In terms of the president working with Congress, he has publicly reached out to members of both parties through meetings and dinners. A common criticism of him from both sides of the aisle during his previous administration was that he made few outreach efforts to congress.
Having Rahm Emmanuel as his chief of staff didn’t help in terms of Republicans those first two years, as his attitude was: “We have the votes, so F…. them.” Sure, I know the Republicans didn’t exactly have their hands stretched out, either, and “no” soon became the only word they did no (ah, know). But these days, I am holding out hope that “no” may be maybe.
Despite skepticism continuing to abound, the two sides are talking nice, or somewhat nice for the moment. Also, for once under Obama, both the House and the Senate are pulling together budgets, which is called “regular order”, because it used to be done regularly. If both come up with budget proposals, at least it provides a place for negotiations to begin (*1). The Obama team tried to skirt this process and negotiate directly with House Speaker Boehner in 2011, but those talks broke down which led to the sequester which led to those forced meat clever budget cuts recently because the two sides could not agree on a reasonable alternative to prevent them from going into effect.
The two new budgets outlined thus far are about as far apart as the edges of the Grand Canyon, with Representative Paul Ryan (R) including the elimination of Obamacare as part of his calculations and Senator Patty Murray (D) outlining a trillion dollars in raised revenue over the next ten years. Both ideas are non-starters for the opposition. Those who remain optimistic hope those are just bargaining positions which include hidden flexibility. Pessimists see those as true positions with little wiggle room and continued stalemate.
As for me, I am hoping for some kind of miracle, but miracles happen some time don’t they? One group that has a whole list of them is the Catholic church, whose members just happen to be celebrating the election of a new pope, which is what brought the possibility of miracles to mind.
I’m willing to suspend judgement for the time being, and instead ponder the idea of Paula Abul at a Papal Conclave. Don’t ask me what she’s doing there. The sight just made me smile.
(*1) One reason the Senate has not come up with a budget proposal like the House has been doing each year is that anything the Democrats would want to pass would be filibustered by the Republicans, so why bother. Yes, there were 60 Senate Democrats for about the first 18 months of Obama’s first term, but they could barely muster enough votes in the Senate to prevent a filibuster and pass the stimulus plan in 2009 and Obamacare in 2010. In terms of the stimulus, of the 61 votes in favor, three came from Republicans and two from independents.
A pet peeve of mine is having to listen to someone say the Democrats “controlled” both houses in Obama’s first two years. They “controlled” the House, but only “managed” the Senate, in the way one tries to manage a stampede.