Opinion: Congress needs to compromise

Nicholas Hunter

Nicholas Hunter

Congress works slowly.

It has worked at varying speeds over the years with even more varying levels of success, but it has always gotten things done at a sluggish pace. This is, in part, by design; the founding fathers who put together the U.S. Constitution put obstacles in front of Congress to check its power.

I would venture to guess, however, that the pace of today’s Congress is not what they had in mind.

Nearly every aspect of congressional activity is politically charged, and with a commonly close split between Republican and Democratic numbers within Congress, nearly every congressional activity ends up being a nasty battle.

If members of Congress are elected with the implication that they are supposed to work for the people who elected them, then they are extremely bad at their jobs. But it does not have to be this way.

Members of Congress claim to have the best interests of the country in mind when making decisions — and I believe that is largely true. There are certainly some people who get into politics for the power or glory (or more corrupt reasons), though I am confident that most people who pursue political office do so because they care about their community and country.

The issue is that, after they win an election, the focus shifts to what policy they can pass.

At first that seems like the right course of action; they create policy — of course, that’s what they’re focused on.

But many go into office with specific policy already in mind, before they have consulted their fellow members of Congress. Some do so with full knowledge it will get rejected by half of Congress. Why?

If they care about helping American people, they need to address problems, not party agendas. Answers can’t be given before the question is asked.

To be effective in any problem-solving group, the first thing that needs to happen is all members of the group needs to collectively identify the problem.

Next, they need to ask, “What can we do to solve that problem?” Then, select a diverse team of people to tackle the issue.

Everyone will likely have some sort of different answer; that is good. Each person can bring their answer to the table, these answers can be talked through and, after hard work, real debate and lots of compromise, a solution can be brought to the table.

On paper, this is how Congress works; they choose committees that are tasked with coming up with legislation to solve specific issues. But, in reality, members of these committees that are from different parties publicly bicker and refuse compromise, then the proposal from the majority party in congress passes their legislation. The part that is missing from the intended operating model of Congress is debate and compromise.

This may seem obvious — we’ve all learned this in elementary school — but this is something that Congress does not even attempt to do.

This largely comes from partisan politics.

There will always be fundamental differences with how people from different backgrounds believe an issue can be solved.

For example, when it comes to health insurance, Republicans want to allow price competition between private health insurers to drive medical costs down. On the other hand, Democrats believe that government regulation is needed to keep medical costs down, and both sides can find information to back their stance, and that’s fine.

What isn’t fine is settling on a policy without reading the other side’s proposal or slowing or shutting down the government until you get your way. Nothing gets done.

Instead of working on appeasing voters by saying the things they want to hear, Congress can begin winning voter approval by using their power to make a real, tangible impact on their lives. And that starts with being willing to compromise.

Nicholas Hunter is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].