Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cleaver: Legislators must have the courage to compromise

(From Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver)

For more than five years, I have written a weekly commentary treatise promoting the need for an elevation in congressional civility and a denunciation of the notion that compromise means capitulations. Four hundred and thirty-four Members of the House of Representatives receive the weekly congressional communiqué. Hundreds, over the years, from both sides of the aisle, have expressed enlightenment in the ruminations.

As I contemplated my vote on the tax extenders and the $1.8 trillion spending bill last week, I looked at all the distasteful ingredients sprinkled throughout each bill, and I began to move toward a "no" vote and a pithy quote for my constituents about how the other side further impaired the poor and recklessly protected the privileged. However, I providentially came to realize that I cannot inspire my colleagues to practice what I am unwilling to show and tell. I do believe that an atmosphere of thoughtful compromise can and must remerge in the DC politically tribalistic environment. It is imperative for the political survival of the world’s most enduring democracy.

As we move into 2016, we must listen to each other and actually attempt to balance our positions with those of the other side. Members of Congress can and should hold strong beliefs on the myriad of legislative matters they we must address. But it would be in the nation’s best interest to be humble enough to accept the notion that both sides just might have some good ideas, which, if combined, may indeed solve some of our most stubborn and puzzling problems.

Constituents must not be demagogued. You should courageously be told that compromise, like that which allowed the tax extenders and the spending bill to deceive congressional approval, is a truce between ideologies and the insertion of something right and something left.

Today, caustic comments poison the body politic, just as the bite of a cobra can poison the human body. This is not a mere highfalutin complaint from a vociferously verbose Member of Congress. Let’s start today and practice throughout 2016 ways to foster and forge our better selves.

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