It’s called ‘governing’

IT’S CALLED ‘GOVERNING’…. The business of passing major legislation can be messy and frustrating, but this really is how it’s supposed to work.

President-elect Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan ran into crossfire from his own party in Congress on Thursday, suggesting that quick passage of spending programs and tax cuts could require more time and negotiation than Democrats once hoped.

Senate Democrats complained that major components of his plan were not bold enough and urged more focus on creating jobs and rebuilding the nation’s energy infrastructure rather than cutting taxes.

[T]he broad support [Obama] has enjoyed so far for the basic concept is now being tested as the specifics become clearer. While conservatives criticize the high spending, and moderate Democrats express concern about the swelling deficit, liberals are pushing for even more money devoted to social programs, alternative-energy development and road, bridge and school construction.

Harkin and Conrad want to see changes to the infrastructure investments. Kerry wants to alter the employment tax credits. Other Democratic senators expressed other competing concerns to transition team officials.

And that’s fine. David Axelrod told the NYT, “Obviously, it’s a big answer to a big problem and there are a lot of component parts to it. These folks are not potted plants. They’re elected officials, and they’re doing their jobs.”

Exactly. It’s important for policy makers to act as quickly and effectively as possible, but there’s nothing wrong with a collaborative process in which an administration and leading lawmakers engage in some back-and-forth. If senators hoped to alter the Obama rescue plan out of pettiness or spite, with some ideological axe to grind, or out of a desire to protect their personal, parochial concerns, this might start to look like a circular firing squad. But as far as I can tell, yesterday’s concerns were not only sincere, they were also legitimate. It’s called “governing.” We’re not accustomed to seeing them, but genuine policy debates are not a bad thing, just so long as they remain productive and work towards an improved result.

John Cole had a good item on this, explaining that’s it’s “healthy” for an administration and lawmakers to “debate actual ideas.” Cole added that the minority party might even want to join in: “Maybe the Republicans will pull their heads out of their collective asses and decide that in the wake of the DOW dropping 80,000 points and massive unemployment and five quarters of negative growth there is something more important than capital gains tax cuts, Elian Gonzalez, Terri Schiavo, and the fairness doctrine, and join in the debate and act for once in good faith and with the best interests of the country in mind.”

That John, he’s such a dreamer.