A last stand for 113th Congress

5:57 PM, Oct. 24, 2013  |  Comments
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A memo to the 535 members who comprise the 113th United States Congress:

This is not a time for speeches, statements, Sunday television show appearances, social media tweets or other sophistry that masquerades for today's political debate. A committee of 29 lawmakers, including three from Wisconsin, is tasked with crafting a long-term budget deal in the wake of a last minute compromise deal to re-open the government and extend the debt ceiling.

Our country has suffered greatly from the childish gridlock that partially shut down the federal government for 16 days, toyed with the full faith and credit of the United States and cost the country, $24 billion or 0.6 percent of fourth quarter GDP growth, according to a Standard and Poor's estimate.

This is not how the founders of our nation meant for things to work. They saw the Congress as the center of the government, not a second rate sideshow of overnight Dr. Suess readings that become easy fodder for late-night TV shows.

The budget conference committee - led by the chairs of the respective House and Senate budget committees, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. - has the difficult job of finding consensus where there's been division and a long trail of failed attempts to reach a grand compromise.

While all parties agree that fits, starts and all-too-predictable fiscal showdowns, sequestrations and other temporary fixes are a poor way to conduct the affairs of our government, they have repeatedly failed to reach a sensible framework to trim spending, make appropriate investments, maintain a safety net and tackle long-term issues with entitlement programs and federal debt.

No one should harbor any illusion that they will not pay more in taxes or fees, or see reductions in some services/programs and increased spending in areas essential to the future, such as infrastructure and education. Voters send representatives to Washington to hash out reasonable fixes that, we hope, intelligently balance competing interests for the greater good of the nation as whole.

Ironically, members of Congress who profess to care so deeply about the nation's finances or ability to aid the needy are themselves the biggest obstacles to the growth, financial stability and confidence needed to turn a hesitant recovery into a full-fledged expansion.

This 113th Congress is recognized for its dearth of accomplishment and surplus of cynicism. It could rightfully earn a place in the history books as one of the worst ever, but it has succeeded exceptionally in one respect: galvanizing public opinion that all the bums should be tossed out.

So as this committee gets down to work, a few pieces of advice: Forget about the current occupant of the White House or your ambitions to move in to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Tell your publicity staff to stand down and hold your tongue when invited to dish on an ideological outlet. Try a new approach. Why not? You only have your seat in Congress to lose.

The Final Thought: The 113th Congress has a chance to redeem itself with federal budget deal.

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

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