Bipartisan powers, activate! Can Congress's debt avengers be superheroes?
Once again, Washington's bipartisan, blue-ribbon, out-of-power elite gathers to urge Congress to break the gridlock and do the right thing on the nation's looming financial Armageddon.
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How could they succeed? It won’t be as exciting as beating back an alien invasion, but could prove as difficult in today’s gridlocked Washington: First, they’ll become a clearinghouse for bipartisan pathways to solving the nation’s debt and deficit problems once the November elections are resolved.Skip to next paragraph
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“What we want is once this election cycle is over, we want to be available as a resource to whoever the next president is to be able to govern well and the next Congress to govern well,” said former Sen. Judd Gregg (R) of New Hampshire, one of the campaign’s co-chairmen. “We’re going to give them a lot of good ideas so they can accomplish that.”
Second, they’ll work outside Washington by building relationships with corporate leaders and running a “National Debt Tour” roadshow, among other measures, to build pressure for a comprehensive solution from beyond the Potomac. If the American people start pushing their representatives for a debt deal, they reason, its chances will improve dramatically.
“It’s necessary for us to create an environment where it becomes not only good policy to vote 'yes' for a debt-reduction plan but good politics as well,” said former Gov. Ed Rendell (D) of Pennsylvania, the campaign’s other co-chairman.
Yes, they say, a deal by July 4, 2013, is conceivable, but that would require Congress to delay some $600 billion in spending cuts and higher taxes from Dec. 31 through the middle of next year.
The group, however, is in the same bind that all organizations of former lawmakers and experts are in: They want action but are in no way able to make that happen.
They can chide the political parties, as Honeywell’s Mr. Cote did: “We can’t have people continue to revel in discordant pluralism or just indulging in simultaneous asphyxiation when we have a problem of this magnitude to address.”
They can urge the parties to act, as Mr. Bowles did: “We’ve got enough really good ideas out there, what we need now is to act. We need real action.... We do face a fiscal cliff. If we do nothing and we barrel through this fiscal cliff at the end of the year, we’re going to have about $7 trillion hit this country right in the gut.”
But what would they tell Congress to do? How are they going to help grease the levers of power in Washington to head off what they see as an imminent financial Armageddon?
“We don’t think it’s our job to tell Congress" how to deal with the fiscal cliff or with the lame duck session, said Mr. Gregg. “We’re just going to be here as a resource.”