A Step in the Right Direction

“Ultimately, [Paul Ryan’s] agreement upholds the principles conservatives stand for and, with Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate, it is the best we can hope for.” – Senator Orin Hatch  (R-UT)

Is it perfect? No. Is it workable? Yes.

Last week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) did the unthinkable: they worked together. Against all odds, the two wrote a bipartisan bill that, while controversial on both sides of the aisle, reduces our deficit and curtails a “painful” sequester (I’m not convinced the cuts were nearly as bad as they were made out to be, but I digress.). The bill’s greatest accomplishment, however, has nothing to do with words on a page. Passed with overwhelming support in the House and awaiting a positive fate in the Senate, the Ryan-Murray budget restored the very lifeblood of divided government: the spirit of compromise.

The importance of this bill cannot be understated. It is not perfect; I get that. Republicans claim its cuts are minimal (they are) and that it exceeds spending caps (it does), while Democrats complain that it does not extend unemployment benefits (it does not). Both sides are right. The Ryan-Murray budget cuts the deficit by a measly $20 billion, shatters spending limits set by the Budget Control Act (2011), and does not extend unemployment benefits. That said, this bill, faults and all, represents a new beginning for Washington. Crippled by partisan gridlock for years, Republicans and Democrats finally agree on something. That is a victory in and of itself.

I do not wish to defend the contents of this bill. The budget’s importance lies in compromise rather than words.

For years, gridlock made passing budget legislation impossible. Right-wing zealots like Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Mike Lee (R-UT), wholly unwilling to reach across the aisle, actively fought any bill that compromised their purist conservative principles. Loath to be outdone by a handful of freshman senators, Harry Reid (D-NV), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and President Obama stonewalled anything that did not pass their ideological litmus test. With help from their caucuses, these men and women ground Washington to a halt…until today.

This deal is a turning point. We need to cut spending; we need a smarter tax code; we need immigration reform. When nothing gets done, America hurts. I ask all those fighting this bill to recognize its immaterial importance. You may not get the cuts you want or the benefits you hoped for, but know you are getting something better: a Congress that works.

Someday, compromise will make its triumphant return. I hope, on that day, we may look back to this bill and say it was the catalyst. I hope, on that day, we may say crippling partisanship began to die, freeing our nation and unleashing its potential. I hope, my friends, and so should you. Blessings and a very merry Christmas.