And in spite of their insistence that the budget deficit is the nation’s most pressing problem, Congressional Republicans have adamantly refused to consider increasing taxes on the highest earners, a proposal that polls indicate even a majority of those who identify themselves as Republicans support.
Compromise lubricates the gears of American government, but a willingness to compromise is sorely lacking in Washington today. No matter what the president proposes, the response of some in Congress is the same — intransigent resistance.
As if to underscore this point, some Congressional Republicans have now announced their intention to block even more of the president’s nominees in response to his recent recess appointments. But as the president noted in his Jan. 28 radio address: “This isn’t about me. We weren’t sent here to wage perpetual political campaigns against each other. We were sent here to serve the American people. And they deserve better than gridlock and games.”
Late last month, Congress honored departing Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). Her former colleagues should take note of what she said in the video message she posted to announce her resignation. “I have more work to do on my recovery. So, to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down.” With that statement, Giffords recognized what so many Members of Congress can’t seem to — that their job is to put serving the people above ego, self-interest and narrow partisanship.
Our political leaders would do well to remind themselves of what Giffords clearly remembered — that Congress and the presidency exist to do the people’s business, period. That recognition would go a long way toward doing exactly what the president admonished us all to do to help move this country forward — to “work together as a team” and to “get each others’ backs.”
Nicole Austin-Hillery is director and counsel of the Washington office of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.