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A Times Editorial

Clay Bennett | Chattanooga Times Free Press

Lack of political courage on the debt

It was a rare moment of congressional bipartisan unity when 40 House Republicans joined with 60 Democrats to urge the debt reduction supercommittee to consider all options — including raising revenue — to address the nation's $14.8 trillion tide of red ink. But only three lawmakers in Florida's 25-member House delegation had the political courage to sign the letter and rise above petty party bickering for the sake of the nation's long-term financial future. The remaining 22 Florida House members, who passed on an opportunity to make a statement reflecting even a modicum of Washington bipartisan cooperation, should be held accountable by their constituents.

The brief, three-paragraph commonsense letter sent to the supercommittee simply urges the panel to consider "all options for mandatory and discretionary spending and revenues" in order to achieve an ambitious $4 trillion in initial deficit reduction. U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, signed. So did Republican U.S. Reps. Ander Crenshaw of Jacksonville and Tom Rooney of Stuart. Missing were Tampa Bay area Republicans Richard Nugent of Brooksville, Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, C.W. Bill Young of Indian Shores, Dennis Ross of Lakeland and Vern Buchanan of Sarasota. Florida Democrats fared no better in stepping up to be counted. Reps. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville, Frederica Wilson of Miami, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Fort Lauderdale, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and Alcee Hastings of Miramar all sat on their hands.

To be sure, the greater political risk in signing the letter lay with Republican House members in today's fractious ideological climate. In Washington, Republicans are expected to robotically adhere to their party's strict, irrational orthodoxy when it comes to opposing any proposal remotely resembling a tax increase. In Florida, voters are more interested in solutions and compromise.

The letter ends by noting: "Our country needs our honest, bipartisan judgment and our political courage." Too bad Nugent, Bilirakis, Young, Ross and Buchanan couldn't bring themselves to rise above partisanship and rigid ideology to strike a blow for cooperation and compromise in the greater national interest.

Lack of political courage on the debt 11/05/11 [Last modified: Friday, November 4, 2011 6:14pm]
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