Congress Finds a Lost Art —The Possible

I’ve written before about how this Congress seems to have started to move past the intensely bitter ideological battles that marked much of the past three years. Another sign of that came this week as the GOP-controlled House and the Democrat-led Senate approved a one-year extension of the nation’s borrowing authority, otherwise known at the debt limit. What made this event so newsworthy wasn’t the passage of the legislation, but rather what didn’t happen.

You’ll recall that recent past efforts at passing increases in the debt limit were accompanied by threats of default and mutual recrimination about who was (largely) to blame for all this debt.  All or most of this political theater was absent this time.

It’s not that increasing the debt limit is a light matter.  It is perhaps symptomatic of a greater ill.  But it is like taking one’s medicine — not at all enjoyable but ultimately necessary. That’s why Congress in the past has usually done it quietly without fanfare or much fuss — most understood that such political theater wasn’t helpful.  And that point was driven home time and again over the past three years.

But the many news stories on this debt extension are signaling that the relative smooth passage indicates a loss by the GOP or signaled some kind of surrender on their part. Hardly.  What it is, simply, is a another sign that Washington might be returning to the idea that “politics is the art of the possible” and that they have begun to reach an understanding that doing what is “possible” is precisely what the voters sent them there to do.

If this is true, it bodes well for passage of other key legislation—an extension of long term unemployment benefits or an agreement on WIA reauthorization—well, possibly anyway.