The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editor's blog

July 22, 2013

News & Comment: When will Washington work? It does, sometimes

Many a radio talk show host might consider me red meat for what I'm about to say.

Sometimes, Washington D.C. works. I know that's got Rush Limbaugh's blood boiling, but I'll go even further: Good people in Congress get good things done.

There's a list and we'll get to that in a minute. But first, we must understand where we get the view that nothing works. Blame me. The media. Or better yet, blame people like me who aren't as well mannered and polite. That would be the "National Media+ -- those news outlets that have huge stakes in the ratings game, whether it be broadcast televison or cable and who have a huge stake and tell the story of controversy, disagreement.

(One could argue The Free Press sells papers ginning up controversy, but even if we sold 10 percent more per day, it wouldn't add up to a lot of money, not compared to networks etc.).

Blame, secondly, those who make money off media making ratings and those who retain political power by media making money by always generating controversy.

Don't get me wrong. There's plenty of real, truthful controversy and disagreement to go around Washington and elsewhere political battles are fought. But it's the emphasis on controversy that helps create an atmophere where nothing gets done, where walls are built.

I'll prove my point by naming 10 things that have gotten done in Washington say in the last 18 months. And I'll test myself here because I have no pre-ordained list. I'll make them up as I can remember them just from reading the newspapers, watching online sites and yes, watching those cable news shows that generate controvery.

1. Recently agreement on Obama nominees between GOP and Dems in U.S. Senate. (Add agreement that Dems didn't go nuclear with their filibuster options)

2. Senate Republicans and Democrats have been meeting for social dinners for a few years now. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is part of the group where she says they find agreement on lots of things and at least get to know each other. This counts as things getting done, sort of.

3. Sequestration agreement isn't good in a lot of people's minds, but it was a bipartisan agreement and it has limited spending.

4. Debt ceiling crisis was averted. I know that seems like aiming low, but hey, it seems to have helped the markets.

5. Senate passed a farm bill, House didn't get it done, but they passed a stand alone farm bill and it looks like there will be some coming together on this.

Ok. I could only come up with five off the top of my head, but with a little help from The Free Press "How they Voted" website, here are five more.

6. House and Senate passed a 6-month stopgap appropriations bill for federal government spending increase of just 1 percent last fall. The House approved one in March, again on bipartisan vote.

7. Senate voted 97-1 to approve Obama's appointee of Penny Pritzker as Commerce Dept. secretary.

8. Senate passed an immigration bill 62-37 by a margin that was expected to pressure the House to pass a bill as well.

9. In June, the House passed a broad bipartisan bill on the military budget that also was expected to win support in the Senate.

10. In May, the Senate overwhelmingly passed  a bill approving funding for Army Corps. of Engineer flood and water projects that contained no earmarks.

So, maybe there weren't a lot of huge issues in the agreement side of this, but there certainly were a few. The point of all this, we can't keep telling people their government doesn't work at all in a democracy. People want hope that it does work sometimes, and sometimes, it does.








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