Other views: Bring pragmatism to bear on debtWell, he did have to evacuate his house, for one thing. In the region of his state’s capital city, so did the residents of more than 900 other homes, as what looked like a wall of floodwater rushed toward town. Then, in his state’s fourth-largest city, some 11,000 people had to evacuate, and the flood that hit that community is one for the ages. So, North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven has had a busy couple of weeks.
By: Grand Forks Herald, The Jamestown Sun
Well, he did have to evacuate his house, for one thing.
In the region of his state’s capital city, so did the residents of more than 900 other homes, as what looked like a wall of floodwater rushed toward town.
Then, in his state’s fourth-largest city, some 11,000 people had to evacuate, and the flood that hit that community is one for the ages.
So, North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven has had a busy couple of weeks.
But even so, Hoeven’s voice is needed in Washington now as much as it is in his home state. That’s because partisan furor has gripped our nation’s capital, and it threatens to tear America’s AAA bond rating right down the middle.
The nation desperately needs leaders who can credibly speak to both sides.
Hoeven — three-time governor of North Dakota, “America’s boom state,” and a senator sent to Washington with 76 percent of the vote — is one.
Here’s hoping he uses some of that political strength to help steer America away from the fiscal brink.
Hoeven isn’t the only Midwesterner whose home-state political support crosses party lines. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., is another, and Peterson’s public influence in crafting bipartisan debt-ceiling and deficit-reduction agreements would be welcome, too.
But Hoeven is a Republican, and that gives him special standing today. That’s because, as has become increasingly clear in recent weeks, responsibility for the standoff that now threatens America’s credit rating isn’t shared equally between parties. It’s heavier on the Republican side — the extreme of the Republican side, that is; the one that’s refusing not only any revenue increases but — in some cases — any increase in the debt ceiling at all.
This intransigence is ruinous as both politics and policy:
— The speaker of the House, a Republican, was working with President Barack Obama on “the deal of the century,” in New York Times columnist David Brooks’ words: “trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred billion dollars of revenue increases.” But Speaker John Boehner balked because of his caucuses’ refusal to vote for any revenue increases at all.
That’s the mark of a party proving itself “not fit to govern,” Brooks wrote.
— Brooks is not the only conservative commentator who’s calling the GOP strategy a mistake. Rich Lowry is editor of National Review; he thinks the president’s bargaining has “dramatically transformed the debate over the debt limit to his advantage.” John Podhoretz is editor of Commentary magazine; he thinks that at some point, those who believe “the politics favor the Republicans are going to have to reckon with the fact that there are no data points supporting their beliefs.”
— Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also has had doubts and recently spoke about them openly. Here’s how National Review’s Lowry described the event: “McConnell’s plan had a clear political message to his fellow Republicans: ‘We’re losing, and there’s no good way out.’”
— In his most recent press conference, Obama claimed 80 percent of Americans support a balanced approach, meaning one that cuts the deficit via both spending cuts and revenue increases. Fox News investigated that claim and found it to be exaggerated: The number of Americans who are open to some tax increases is “only” 73 percent, the most recent polling indicates.
In this climate, Hoeven stands out — or could if he chose. Few other senators carry both a record of executive achievement and solid home state support. Republicans need such leaders to speak out: To accept that ours is a divided government, that a divided government demands bipartisan agreements, and that bipartisan agreements require both spending cuts and revenue increases.
The way out of America’s fiscal crisis is plain. It’ll be found in the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction proposal, Brooks’ “deal of the century” or a similar plan. As governor, Hoeven won support from supermajorities in his approach to state government. He should help his party recognize that in a balanced approach, supermajority support still can be found.