GOP should be answering to constituents

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

The summer's political blockbuster has ended. After weeks of reading and hearing about the "economic Armageddon," the debt ceiling was raised. Everyone in Congress has taken off to enjoy time away from the daily grind.

Despite weeks of high drama, political leaders hailed it as a victory for their causes and for their nation.

Most Americans don't see it that way. They just wanted it to be over -- and wanted the adults in the room to prevail.

But if important issues continue to be resolved with the same level of insanity as they were during this fiasco, what should we expect to look forward to?

The president of the United States was forced to back away from almost all of his demands for a deal (except that the debt ceiling be extended past 2012). For the executive branch of our government, the "debt deal" was a complete and total rout. Speaker John Boehner told CBS News, "When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the White House, I got 98 percent of what I wanted; I'm pretty happy."

There was a clear intent here by the GOP to spend a great deal of political capital to achieve one goal: to destroy Barack Obama's presidency.

But the practical result is that our institutions of checks and balances are under assault -- the power of the executive has been weakened considerably. A minority in Congress has found a method, by using congressional power to obstruct, to have their own way. That's not good for anyone. But it is where we are heading if some semblance of balance is not returned to American political discourse.

Republican congressional leaders Mitch McConnell and John Boehner repeatedly talked about how the last few months' gridlock over raising the national debt ceiling produced "a healthy debate."


Most Americans, according to several the polls, wanted to see tax revenues as well as entitlement reforms on the table. Yet, many GOP members signed a pledge not to consider new revenues of any kind (whether these revenues came from closing tax loopholes, ending tax credits or raising the marginal rates). There still has not been a real debate over taxes as part of a balanced approach to paying off debts accumulated over the past 10 years.

When the mere mention of tax revenue came up, the Republicans refused to discuss it. They walked out of meetings, shutting down the bipartisan talks in the process. They won. That discussion has now been kicked to an ad-hoc "super committee," created because congressional Republicans refuse to give an inch to help pay down America's debts.

And it's clear they don't intend to compromise anytime soon.

Ironically, as I've pointed out so many times, President George W. Bush himself intended the tax "holiday" established by his tax cuts to expire. But as long as politicians are beholden to special interests, and not to their constituents who hire them to make tough decisions, our economy will be held hostage to the highest bidder.

It's clear both major parties will appoint highly partisan members to this committee, which has been assigned to find another $1.2 to $1.5 trillion in additional cuts by November. For Americans, this means more deadlocked talks, more irresponsible choices and more can kicking.

Americans see new revenues as essential to any long-term reduction in debt that doesn't cripple the government's ability to grow the economy. If Republicans continue to walk away from real solutions, how can Americans ever hope to get back on their feet?

While the stock market teeters and Americans continue to struggle to find jobs, all we can hope to look forward to is more drama and deeper cuts.

The recession goes on and on for those still searching for work.

Because of "austerity" cuts, GDP growth has slowed and state and local governments are shedding jobs, while the private sector waits for consumer demand and confidence to return.

Republican obstructionism continues to put people out of work. Just this week, Congress went home before passing crucial funding for the Federal Aviation Administration employees and contracted construction workers.

According to one of my Capitol Hill sources, because of "the House Republicans' refusal to compromise and allow a simple extension of funding, 4,000 FAA employees are now furloughed. What's more, about 75,000 construction workers are out of work because airport-related projects have been suspended."

This has got to stop. The American middle class is too vulnerable, and the global economy too treacherous, for us to continue hobbling our own people because of ridiculous political gamesmanship. How long will we suffer from elected leaders who pledge allegiance to their donor base and not their constituents' needs?

Our country deserves better.

Donna Brazile is a political commentator on CNN, ABC and NPR, and a contributing columnist to Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill.