New Castle News


March 7, 2013

Our Opinion: Washington shows signs of willingness to talk

NEW CASTLE — Perhaps failure is having an impact in the nation’s capital.

After weeks of finger pointing and drawing lines in the sand, there are indications Washington’s politicians are now behaving in more mature fashion.

News out of the capital this week describes a House Republican plan that not only creates some flexibility in the recent sequester budget cuts, but also is intended as a road map for avoiding a future government shutdown.

Typically, one would expect loud condemnations of any GOP fiscal plan by Democrats. However, the response has been muted, aided perhaps by the fact Republicans acknowledge Senate Democrats will amend what they are proposing.

It’s what those of us out in the real world call compromise.

Meanwhile, President Obama has scheduled informal gatherings with various congressional Republicans. It’s presented as a way to get some essential dialogue going between the White House and Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Will it work? It’s too early to tell. But we get the sense both sides are duly chastened and perhaps a little embarrassed by what happened with the sequester.

As you may recall, last year the two parties agreed to significant and unpopular budget cuts that would kick in if they failed to reach a meaningful debt reduction accord. The cuts were intended to be so severe that they would force the parties to the bargaining table.

But it didn’t work. And the cuts, known as the sequester, went into effect at the start of this month. And they are working their way through various government offices.

During the lead-up to all of this, Republicans and Democrats naturally blamed each other for the failure to resolve differences. This rhetoric seemed to take precedence over hammering out areas of disagreement and reaching a resolution. It was a shameful performance all around. If you are looking for heroes in this process, there aren’t any.

Yet official Washington has ample reason to learn a constructive lesson from the sequester. It’s difficult to assess general public opinion in regard to what is happening with federal fiscal matters — other than general disgust. But we don’t see either side gaining political advantage from Washington’s inability to compromise.

And in many ways, the sequester is a warning of things to come. Federal officials need to find ways to agree to keep government operating. Plus, there is a raft of longer term issues involving tax policies and entitlements that are far more complicated to address than the sequester issue.

The broader public concern ought to be whether Washington is capable of tackling these serious matters. The track record of late is not encouraging.

But perhaps there are signs that things are changing. With enough citizen pressure, perhaps Washington will get around to doing its real job.

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