Buchanan hopes for quick action in Congress to avoid "fiscal cliff"

skennedy@bradenton.comNovember 11, 2012 

MANATEE -- Though he admits disappointment among his GOP colleagues at President Obama's victory Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan still thinks compromise in Washington is not only possible, but absolutely necessary -- and before the New Year.

"We have to come together," said the newly re-elected Sarasota congressman during an interview Thursday. "We really need to find a way to work together on a

bipartisan basis."

"Governing is the art of the possible; politics is the art of the possible; governing must have give-and-take," said Buchanan, who was also recently elected the co-chairman of Florida's 27-member House congressional delegation.

A University of Florida political science professor, and the executive director of a national organization representing county governments both also suggested immediate action may be in the offing.

Buchanan, who has championed small business to encourage economic recovery, hopes things can be worked out, and fast.

"They have principles they don't want to step back from," he said of Democrats, who not only won the White House but fortified their numbers in the U.S. Senate as well.

"I'd like to think small business and jobs are something we can get agreement on," said Buchanan, a longtime businessman who has for decades employed people in his own firms.

House Speaker John Boehner has already phoned President Barack Obama, Buchanan noted, adding, "So there's already a reach-out from both sides."

"I'm hoping we get down to business," said Buchanan, who set aside some time after the election to relax at his home on Longboat Key.

Buchanan's view was seconded by Ken Wald, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. Wald's specialty is American political behavior.

"I think there is, in fact, a very brief window of opportunity, I'm surprised more people haven't talked about," said Wald. "It goes back to what happened after the midterm elections, when there was a flourish of things that got done in a brief period after the election, before the (new) Congress was sworn in."

One truism of a lame duck Congress is that some of those departing don't have to worry about casting unpopular votes because they will not be running for office again, he said.

"And secondly, I suspect there is concern in the Republican Party that the new House majority might be even more "tea party-ish," and this is the time to strike a deal," Wald said.

There may also be other incentives to compromise, he said.

"I don't believe there's any great emotional commitment to bipartisanship on the GOP side -- and that's what I think the problem is -- but they might have this brief interval, at least the leadership might want to make a deal," Wald explained.

The political situation will "force action," said Matt Chase, the executive director of the National Association of Counties, nicknamed "The Voice of America's Counties."

"We fully expect Congress and the administration to deal with our nation's fiscal challenges in the near future," wrote Chase in an email message.

"Whether it is in the lame duck session after Thanksgiving, or in the spring, the financial markets and the uncertainty facing businesses will force action," he said. "From a county perspective, we are looking for a balanced approach that doesn't simply push costs and responsibilities to the local level."

Asked what sort of options are already under discussion, Buchanan replied, "I think it's really about jobs; we still have 23 million people out of work."

Raising taxes on small businesses would be one possibility he would not want to see, he said, adding, "And we have to start dealing with debts and the deficit."

If Congress and Obama fail to act before they hit the so-called "fiscal cliff" in January, the change could jolt the economy and raise tax bills, according to a report by McClatchy Newspapers, Inc. The tax changes could cost almost $3,500 per household, it said.

Buchanan explained that the "fiscal cliff" involved Bush-era tax cuts that are supposed to expire this year, raising everybody's taxes.

The tax cuts are accompanied, he said, by drastic cuts in spending on entitlement programs and the military.

Buchanan was concerned that, especially with military budget cuts, it would be necessary to lay people off.

"In a fragile economy, do you want to be raising taxes now on everybody?" he asked. "These are the things we'll have to consider."

"We'll be back in Washington until we get it done -- we don't want to leave Washington until we get our work done."

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