Did you think Congress had died? Did you think our government had shrunk to the executive branch and the judicial branch, that only the president and the judges could run the land? That our legislative branch no longer functioned except to quarrel and point fingers and lay blame like a middle school full of giggling girls?
Well, I did. I thought the Republicans would never agree with the Democrats, that the House would never join with the Senate, and that we would never see any bills passed to help our very sick economy. They havent passed a budget since April 9, 2009. How long could you run your business without a budget? How long could you continue to hire thousands of employees and spend billions and then trillions (what is that?) of dollars without making a profit? Not very long. Youd turn out the lights, lock the doors and go home. Thats exactly what I thought our Congress had done.
Then last week, I thought I saw a light. Paul Ryan and Patty Murray raised the window shade and there was light. It was tiny, I admit, but light nonetheless.
Ryan came from the Republican House and Murray from the Democrat Senate, and the two of them, together, proposed a budget. It isnt everything the House would want, and it isnt everything the Senate would want. But it does several wonderful things like:
Avoids another government shutdown in January;
Sets a limit for discretionary spending;
Eases the across-the-board sequester cuts;
But most of all, it gets Congress talking to each other. What a Christmas present. Think of all the things Congress must talk about and pass. Three of them could take all year -- the deficit, immigration and a new tax law. For the past three years, the House has been waiting for the Senate to vote on 372 bills. Most of them are pork for their back-home supporters, and many are a waste of time like naming post offices, but some could be important like:
House Resolution 466: Wounded Veterans Job Security Act.
House Resolution 748: Campus Safety Act.
But nothing will get passed; nothing will become law; nothing will help guide us out of this dark recession, or depression, if youre one of the millions without a job, until members of Congress begin to talk to each other.
And then came Ryan and Murray. Tall Ryan and short Murray; Conservative Ryan and Liberal Murray; Ryan from the Republican right; Murray from the Democrat left, both of them loyal members of their respective parties; both of them as far apart as modern politics can get them. And they talked. And they worked together to hammer out an agreement no one believed they could do.
How did they do this? I wasnt there when these two budget chairs first met, but I can well imagine what they said. I can almost see Ryan smiling down at little Murray and saying: Well, Patty, we know all of our disagreements. We could spend all day on taxing the rich or eliminating the entitlements. But lets start with something both of us can agree on. And the one thing both of them could agree on was that America needed a budget.
America needed these two sides to come together and write a budget. This was their job. This is why they were elected to Congress. They could agree on that. And they did.
And the rest just happened.
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corp. and Cummings Management Consultants. His website is digitallydrc.com.