Toward this end, majority leaders should ensure that the minority parties have meaningful opportunities to offer and debate amendments on any debt legislation. Minority leaders should commit to limit the use of tactical procedures to delay action or require supermajorities. Leadership must shift the current incentives and encourage members to work publicly and privately to identify areas of agreement on entitlements and taxes. At a minimum, leadership must encourage members to simply interact with one another.
While it is unlikely that Congress can pass comprehensive legislation before the 2012 elections, they can’t afford to waste the next year. Historically, on issues of this magnitude, leadership must step in to craft the compromise. However, committees of jurisdiction should be instructed to hold hearings throughout 2012 and generate the legislative proposals that form the basis of the ultimate package. If the balance of power does not shift decisively, Congressional action is possible during the 2012 lame-duck session.
Finally, Congressional leadership must take greater responsibility for explaining the consequences of inaction to an anxious but largely uninformed public.
The powers afforded to the super committee were hardly extraordinary. In fact, they represent the rudiments of the legislative process. Instead of passing another law designed to work around its self-imposed dysfunction, Congress should rediscover the basic tools and traditions it has used to overcome prior challenges and get to work. If joined by a committed and engaged president, our system, despite its flaws, can solve this problem before it’s too late.
Jason Grumet is president of the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.