Can our politicians do anything these days without acting like hyperpartisan children?
Every year, President Barack Obama sends a representative to Congress to advocate on behalf of the administration's budget. And every year, as New York Times political reporter Carl Hulse notes, Republicans "try to pummel him and the budget at a televised hearing. They typically enjoy that."
It has always been that way, and Democrats don't act any differently when a Republican is in the White House. It may look like grandstanding, and much of it is, but that adversarial relationship is part of a healthy, functioning democracy.
But refusing to hear the budget presentation in the first place? That's a partisan snub that doesn't even bother with the appearance of working across the aisle.
“Rather than spend time on a proposal that, if anything like this administration’s previous budgets, will double down on the same failed policies that have led to the worst economic recovery in modern times, Congress should continue our work on building a budget that balances and that will foster a healthy economy,” said Republican Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, reports the Los Angeles Times.
If Congress and the president can't even hear each other out, something's broken.
Price and his counterpart in the Senate, budget committee chairman Rep. Michael Enzi of Wyoming, have forgotten that they are elected to represent the interests of their respective constituents. No one expects a Republican Congress and a Democrat in the White House to see eye to eye on everything.
Disagreement is an active check on power, and it means democracy is working as intended. Compromise is the only way to get things done in Washington, D.C., and it's what the Founding Fathers intended. If one party could railroad bills and budgets through the process, the U.S. would be a different country, and not in a good way.
Telling Obama's rep to bug off, and declining to hear what he has to say, is giving up on the process before it has the chance to get started. That's not fair to Americans.
Of course, Price and Enzi have their critics. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, who leads house Democrats, said their actions are indicative of a “corrosive radicalism that has gripped congressional Republicans.”
She should know, from one idealogue to another. Pelosi's first run as house speaker was marked by partisan acrimony, and in 2010 it was Pelosi who famously said Republicans would have to pass the Affordable Care Act "to find out what is in it."
Perhaps her main objection to Price and Enzi is that they're using her tactics, freezing out the other side and trying to go it alone.
Price and Enzi are concerned about government spending, and believe Obama doesn't take debt seriously. The American people get that. But refusing to collaborate on something as basic as a budget is inexcusable, especially from party leaders who love to complain when they think Obama hasn't done enough to consult them on important issues.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle need to start acting like adults. If they can't do that, voters should send them home next time they come around asking for another term.