April 17, 2014

Former Dem leader urges cooperation, compromise

U.S. Capitol Building; Capitol Building; Washington D.C.One of labor’s strongest friends on Capitol Hill was Rep. Marty Frost, a centrist Democrat from Texas who served in the House of Representatives from 1979 to 2005, and who served two terms as chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

Post Election Day, Frost wrote an opinion article published by The Hill, an independent newspaper that circulates primarily on Capitol Hill and is read closely by members of Congress and their senior staff.

Reflecting on the urgency of congressional action to avoid the well-publicized fiscal cliff that could plunge the nation into a severe recession, Frost called for “a big dose of bipartisan adult leadership,” with Democrats and Republicans putting down their partisan polemic swords and embarking on a productive journey of cooperation and compromise.

“President Obama must turn the other cheek and tell Republicans in Congress that he is ready for a serious, ongoing conversation about the major problems facing the country, notwithstanding the fact that they beat the hell out of him during the election,” Frost wrote. And Republican leaders Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, and John Boehner, the House speaker, “must tell the more extreme elements of their own party to sit down and shut up and that they are ready to deal.“

Frost further suggests that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle collaborate in the weeks ahead and “take a serious look at Republican legislation that passed the House in August establishing fast-track procedures for considering tax reform next year.” For that collaborative process to be constructive, he says Republicans must understand that “any new tax legislation would need to be revenue-positive — that is, raise more revenue than the current system no matter what tax rates it establishes.

“Republicans,” says Frost, “will hate the concept of revenue-positive tax reform and Democrats will hate any continuation of the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy for any period of time, but no one gets everything they want when you have divided government.

“The alternative is the looming fiscal cliff. Try to sell that at the Rotary Club or in the union hall, particularly at Machinists and United Auto Workers halls where the members work in defense plants,” says Frost.

He adds that while entitlements can be on the table, “any thought of radically changing Social Security and Medicare by moving to privatization or vouchers will not fly.

“Tax deductions can be on the table,” he says, “as long as Congress recognizes that not all tax provisions are equal — some of them actually promote legitimate national policy objectives, like energy independence.”

In support of this cooperation and compromise approach, Frost suggests that Congress “pass a ban on political issue ads during the 12 months following an election. That’s a case I would love to see argued before the Supreme Court.

“It’s time for some adult behavior,” says Frost, and “let’s hope the adults show up.”