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Gridlock AWOL


Members of the U.S. House of Representatives demonstrated something this week that’s been sorely lacking among our elected officials: leadership.

On Thursday, the House overwhelmingly passed a two-year budget plan by a vote of 332-94. Supporting members defied the calls from all extremes to dump the deal, which showed they’ve finally learned how to put the best interests of the nation before personal political ambitions.

“Today’s budget compromise is an important breakthrough that moves us in a positive direction. While I would have preferred a bigger deal that further reduced the deficit, I am pleased today’s agreement largely eliminated the sequester and its negative effects on New Yorkers,” U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-21st District, of Plattsburgh, who voted in favor of the budget plan, said in a news release issued after the vote.

“This compromise, though imperfect, lays the groundwork for future cooperation on other important issues including the farm bill and debt ceiling,” Rep. Owens continued. “By taking similar bipartisan action on these issues in January, Congress can bring long-overdue certainty to the economy and my constituents and return our focus to what’s most important: creating jobs and growing the economy.”

The bill didn’t give President Obama everything he wanted. It didn’t give House Republicans everything they wanted. And it didn’t give House Democrats everything they wanted.

This deal, in other words, focused on the crucial areas where everyone could find common ground as well make concessions. As imperfect as the finished products may end up being, this is how our system of governance is designed to operate.

The two-year plan removes automatic spending cuts established by the sequestration bill passed last year. It introduces different spending cuts and new sources of revenue, albeit none from tax increases. With $63 billion in relief from sequester cuts and $85 billion in overall savings, the deal would result in a deficit reduction of about $23 billion.

Some of the cuts called for in the sequester will be deferred, which irritated many conservative activists and organizations. They urged House GOP members to stand firm and reject any compromise.

But still feeling the sting of criticism after forcing a partial government shutdown in October, the Republican leadership in the House rose above partisan grandstanding and advanced the bill forward.

This effort was aided largely by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-1st District, of Wisconsin, who worked with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., to craft a deal that would be seriously considered by members of both parties in their respective chambers. The successful vote this week also resulted from U.S. Rep. John Boehner, R-8th District, of Ohio, who used his position as House speaker to keep most of his members in line.

They resisted considerable pressure from many of the same people who earlier this year believed closing the federal government was a good thing. While they are entitled to their opinions and are free to advocate for their ideas to be carried out, they are simply wrong on this.

We all have widely different views of what the proper role of the government should be in our lives and what kinds of services and programs should be funded. As citizens of a constitutional republic, being able to hold and express these views is our birthright. And no sensible person would want it any other way.

However, most Americans did not see the government shutdown as anything but an appalling breakdown in our officials’ ability to negotiate and compromise. No political ideology is infallible, and our system does not work when controlled by the extremes. We hope that members of the U.S. Senate take these lessons to heart when they debate the budget deal next week.

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