The Concord (N.H.) Monitor, Oct. 17, 2013
When the reckless and nauseating spectacle in Washington finally ended, here's what House Speaker John Boehner had to say: "We fought the good fight. We just didn't win."
His glib summation shows better than nearly anything how out of touch those Republicans responsible for this month's government shutdown are with the American people and with common sense itself.
Good fight? It's hard to even understand what the tea party crowd was fighting for. Surely they didn't believe they would actually succeed in convincing President Obama to undo his signature accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act. Surely they didn't believe Americans wanted the government they're paying for to be shut down. Surely they didn't predict broad approval for their scheme to bring the country close to a crash of the economic markets and inflict pain on federal workers, private contractors and the many, many other Americans who rely on the government in ways small and large. Surely they didn't imagine that underscoring what a dysfunctional mess Washington has become would improve the nation's standing in the world.
The reprieve -- a deal to reopen the government and lift the threat of default -- is temporary, of course. Lawmakers agreed to fund the government through Jan. 15 and raise the debt ceiling through Feb. 7. And Boehner's mischaracterization of the situation doesn't bode well. Yet the serious players in the House, Senate and White House must persevere. What's needed now is what's been needed for years: a big, long-term deal to balance the federal budget that will no doubt need to include some new revenue, some cuts in spending and some rethinking of federal entitlement programs. This should not be news, especially to elected officials, even as many of them have spent long careers avoiding committing to a deficit-reduction plan that might include some political risk.
Amid the gloom, voters can be heartened by the conduct of several members of Congress who rejected the zealotry of their colleagues and pushed for a bipartisan compromise. They include Sens. Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. All showed themselves to be practical-minded when it counted. And all seemed to know instinctively what was lost on the Ted Cruz crowd: Most Americans want their leaders to work together for the good of the country. They expect them to be civil, open-minded and reasonable. They have limited tolerance for political nonsense.
The bigger budget battle has yet to be joined. We encourage Shaheen and Ayotte to seek out leadership roles in persuading their colleagues to make an even harder, longer-term commitment to doing the right thing.