Some constituents in the 8th District, represented in Congress by second-term Republican Larry Bucshon, want him to refuse any “fiscal cliff” compromise with Democrats. Those strident partisans are most likely in the minority, though.
Sixty-seven percent of Americans want Republicans in Washington to work with President Obama to resolve the fiscal cliff dilemma, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted after last month’s election. Even among Republicans responding to the Pew poll, nearly half — 46 percent — want their GOP senators and U.S. House reps to work out an agreement with the president. Likewise, 72 percent of the country wants President Obama to work with Republicans in Congress.
Bucshon has an opportunity to be a bit of a statesman in this situation by being reasonable, rather than rigid. The Republican side of the Hoosier congressional delegation will need such a voice in the years ahead. Bucshon can step into that role by distinguishing himself during this month’s important budgetary negotiations. He should avoid the partisan finger-pointing, and actively join other House members in finding a starting point through common ground and then build on that.
The stakes are high. The fiscal cliff serves as punishment to the Congress for failing to craft a budget deal last year through a deficit supercommittee of its members. Thus, if legislators can’t agree on a remedy by Dec. 31, the switch will be thrown on a two-pronged penalty — deep, automatic cuts to military and domestic programs joined by tax increases for millions of people, including the middle class. Economists agree the cliff would trigger another recession.
A thaw in the gridlock began after Americans re-elected the president and expanded the Democratic majority in the Senate. House Republicans, who also retained their majority, saw some members refuse to sign a no-tax-increase pledge by Washington lobbyist Grover Norquist. A handful of Senate Republicans said they, too, were ready to consider a variety of options to hammer out a budget deal that trims the deficit and strengthens the future solvency of entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Those legislators are approaching the task responsibly and realistically; President Obama campaigned on the plan to include an increase in taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans in the effort to reduce the deficit, and he won. That outcome should not be minimized or ignored.
Bucshon signed the Norquist pledge, and sees it as a commitment to the 8th District. He reiterated that view in a statement emailed to the Tribune-Star Editorial Board last week, but also hinted at changes in tax deductions and credits that some Republicans have expressed a willingness to consider to avoid the fiscal cliff.
“I pledged to my constituents that I would not raise their tax rates,” Bucshon said in that statement. “Hardworking Hoosiers and small businesses should not be asked to send more money to Washington, D.C., just to pay for bigger government and increases in spending. I have stated before that we need comprehensive tax reform and that we should focus on the long-term drivers of our debt during fiscal cliff negotiations.”
The latter part of his comments raises the possibility for compromise. Bucshon will best serve all of his constituents by asserting himself as a leader in the cause of solving this problem. A majority of Americans hunger to see members of Congress roll up their sleeves to get things done, instead of repeatedly telling us why they can’t. This is your moment, Congressman Bucshon.