With a current national debt of over $12 trillion and a deficit of around $1.35 trillion for 2010, debt and deficit reduction is rightfully at the top of America’s current concerns with the government. Fiscal responsibility, spending freezes, budget cuts – these are measures and terms that you would expect to see a big “R” stamped on. Unfortunately, you would be mistaken.
With the victory of Republican Scott Brown in the special election in Massachusetts, the Republican Party has broken the “super-majority” of the Democrats. They now have the ability to filibuster and to block initiatives, since the Democrats can no longer muster the 60 votes required.
One would expect this to lead to a more fiscally conservative, responsible agenda, an agenda that would have greater bipartisanship and hopefully, one that would be more representative of this country’s needs and desires. Instead, the Republicans have taken this opportunity to (surprise, surprise) play politics.
In a vote last week on creating a bipartisan commission to recommend ways to reduce the rising deficit, Republicans defeated the effort, stopping it short of the 60 votes required. Several Republicans who had initially supported the bill then voted against were asked why they did so, and the reason given was that supporting a deficit reduction effort initiated by the Democrats would give them political cover.
Effectively, the Republicans united against a bill which they should have been sponsoring in the first place – a bill that would at least begin on the arduous path of reining in spending and reducing the deficit and potentially the debt.
Hopefully, this trend will not continue. The Republican Party is now at a crossroads of how they will define themselves. Will they (continue to) define themselves as a party which does nothing but attempt to block every initiative that wasn’t started by someone within their party, or will they use their increased leverage to make appropriate and necessary changes in bills that have the potential to be beneficial?
Take, for example, the health care bill that is currently weaving its way (or stalled, depending on how you look at it) through Congress. It is, as of this moment, a purely Democratic bill; votes on it have been straight down party lines. Now would be a prime time for the Republicans to show initiative and creativeness. By paring the bill down to a more palatable size, perhaps adding a few provisions of their own, and overall revamping the bill into a bipartisan effort, health care reform could be passed in a manner that would allow both parties to cry victory and potentially reduce the deficit over time.
What I want is a return of the old Republican brand, a return of the fiscal conservatives who utilize their political power to hone and refine initiatives put forward by the Democrats, by eliminating waste and helping by providing their own ideas, instead of discarding anything that doesn’t originate from them.