Congress can come together to make common-sense compromises

Some Republican congressmen who supported the recent U.S. government shutdown got so burned that economists and corporate CEOs, their natural constituency, have been warning them:
The people don’t want that again.

Don’t you think this is why we were able to reach a bipartisan agreement on a budget deal?

Yes! It is clear that some of my colleagues in Congress are now making more of an effort to get something done about federal spending and other issues. Changing the overall atmosphere in Washington — where, for the past several years, we’ve been at loggerheads without negotiation or compromise — remains another story.

Yet, a budget deal is not the only compromise we’ve seen in Washington in this week.

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On Monday, negotiators from both parties agreed to a defense bill that would set a reasonable spending level, while increasing personnel pay, and addressing the contentious issue of sexual assault in the military and the status of detainees at Guantánamo.

And there was another encouraging sign of bipartisanship as well. The Senate and House actually agreed to reauthorize a federal ban on the manufacturing of plastic guns that are not detectable by security screening devices.

These dangerous weapons will now be kept off the streets and out of the hands of those who would do us harm.

Imagine: a compromise on gun legislation and defense spending all in the same week!

And what about the budget deal?

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a liberal, and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the conservative former vice presidential nominee, have hammered out a basic spending package that will fund the government past Jan. 15. That’s the date Congress would have faced another possible government shutdown if no deal had been reached.

As it stands now, this deal would accomplish two of my chief goals as a member of the Budget Conference Committee. It would significantly roll back the meat-cleaver cuts known as sequestration for the next two fiscal years. And, as initially promised, there will be no cuts to Social Security and seniors’ Medicare benefits.

I would have favored getting rid of the so-called sequester altogether in lieu of more targeted cuts of wasteful government spending and closing egregious tax loopholes.  But, again, we must be prepared to make common-sense compromises for the good of us all.

Just about every reasonable member of Congress knows that the sequester, a guillotine approach to cutting budgets, is hurtful and not the best option if given a choice.

So, we now have what amounts to a bipartisan budget deal — contrasting with the recent political gridlock.

To the critics on both sides of the aisle, I say, let’s wait until we have all the facts before, as Mark Twain would say, we begin to distort them.

Murray and Ryan managed to put aside their ideological differences to help craft a plan that falls somewhere in the middle. But protecting the future of our country, ensuring the growth of our economy and the safety of American citizens is something we all should agree on.

Now, the plan faces a vote first in the House, then next week in the Senate.

If that happens, the Budget Conference Committee will have finished its work by its mid-December deadline, which is no small feat in Washington these days.


Nelson is Florida's senior senator. He sits on the Armed Services; Budget; Commerce, Science and Transportation; and Finance committees. He is also a senior member of the Senate Budget Conference Committee.