After the fracas--a budget?
The fine art of compromise--of reaching a middleground of accommodation--is a hallowed political tradition in US governance going back to the earliest days of the American republic. Sad to say, that sense of mutual give-and-take was in short supply last week as the House failed to reach agreement on a final budget for fiscal year 1983. Now, with the House returning to the fiscal battle, it is vital that lawmakers reach an accord as quickly as possible. To that end, the House should consider seriously the proposal of Democratic Budget Committee Chairman James Jones that lawmakers ''split the difference'' between the major Republican and Democratic plans.Skip to next paragraph
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Translating such an approach into a workable compromise will admittedly be challenging for the House leadership. The bipartisan (and essentially conservative) coalition which President Reagan was able to put together last year is now splintered, at least for the moment. Factions abound, with liberals, conservatives, ''gypsy moths,'' centrists, ''boll weevils,'' and ''yellow jackets'' favoring their own particular plans.
But what remains at stake in all the manuevering over the budget is the very well-being of the US economy. Massive deficits are widely perceived as the driving force behind continuing high interest rates. To get those interest rates down Congress must take action on the budget. Lawmakers, after all, are under a mandate to do just that.
Congressman Jones is correct in noting that there are several key areas of possible compromise between the rival plans. To begin with, both plans assume deficits of around $110 billion for fiscal 1983, which begins Oct. l of this year. The GOP plan introduced by Delbert Latta of Ohio would cut $28 billion from defense spending and raise taxes by $95 billion. The Jones plan would cut defense by $40 billion and raise taxes by $150 billion.
Obviously, the Republicans are going to have to give ground on defense spending and taxes, just as the Democrats will have to yield to deeper cuts in social programs than they have been willing to accept.
Significantly, the Latta plan failed by only 26 votes. That means, as Congressman Jones has implied, that a compromise will have to be structured somewhere close to, but not necessarily totally embracing, that plan--i.e. somewhere to the political ''right.''
With a short holiday respite behind them, lawmakers must now bite the bullet. The time for recriminations is past. As Speaker O'Neill said last week during the final moments of the fractious debate, ''there is plenty of blame to go around to all of us.''
The question the long-suffering American people must ask is: when will there be plenty of praise to go around as well?