Bipartisanship Needs a Boost

Bare-knuckled partisan politics in Washington, D.C., has made too many members of Congress unwilling to compromise. Part of the bitter fruit of that attitude is a $16 trillion national debt that continues to increase at roughly $1 trillion a year.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and U.S. Rep. Shelley Capito, R-W.Va., agree more needs to be done to address problems such as the debt – but unfortunately, leaders in their political parties don’t seem to view such cooperation as a priority.

It should be, the co-chairmen of a panel that outlined the crisis and ways to address it said Monday in Charleston. They are former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican, and Erskine Bowles, who served as chief of staff for former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

Manchin brought the two to Charleston to discuss their work with the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in 2010. The panel produced a blueprint for reducing deficit spending and preserving vital programs such as Social Security.

But though most Republicans and Democrats on the commission were able to agree, members of the two parties in Congress were not.

While in Charleston, Bowles and Simpson cited specific budget items on which spending could be cut – if Democrats and Republicans could abandon traditional animosities.

“When you sit somebody down and don’t villainize people … you get something done,” Manchin, a master at that while governor of West Virginia, noted.

For her part, Capito noted a distinct lack of interest in cooperation on Capitol Hill. She is co-chairwoman of the Civility Caucus, open to all 435 members of the House. Just 18 have joined.

Too many lawmakers are too preoccupied with partisan sniping to recognize the wisdom of the approach taken by Manchin and Capito. That needs to change.