Insights About Legislating from Rep. Chaka Fattah

Aug 8, 2012 | Budgets & Projections

Yesterday, Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) sent a letter to his House colleagues urging them to adopt Simpson-Bowles as a way to stave off the fiscal cliff. Although it was not his preferred solution -- his is to replace the income tax with a one percent tax on all transactions -- Fattah recognized that the plan represents the "only solution before Congress that has bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress and addresses the fiscal and policy goals that were debated prior to the budget sequester agreement." As he wrote in the letter:

The Simpson-Bowles proposal is the only solution before Congress that has bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress and addresses the fiscal and policy goals that were debated prior to the budget sequester agreement. The proposal will achieve nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020 by implementing comprehensive tax reform measures that will broaden the tax base, simplify the tax code, lowering tax rates, and sharply reducing tax expenditures. In addition, the proposal will create new budget enforcement mechanisms that will scrutinize both security and non-security spending, cut or eliminate low-priority programs, and streamline government operations.

Although my proposal, H.R. 1125, the Debt Free America Act, will eliminate the national debt within a decade while creating the framework for fundamental tax reform, which includes the elimination of the personal income tax, I recognize that Congressional inaction is no longer tenable nor can Congress afford to begin discussions to achieve viable fiscal sustainability anew. Accordingly, I supported the recommendations that were generated from President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. In addition, I spoke in favor the Simpson-Bowles recommendations on the House Floor, as well as voting for Rep. Jim Cooper's amendment to the budget resolution that adopted the Simpson-Bowles proposal.

Fattah's letter provides a good lesson in governing. We of course applaud lawmakers for developing their own solutions to fix the debt. We need policymakers who have the courage and conviction to develop and advocate for solutions; many of their ideas represent important pieces of the debate and help push toward a final plan. Yet ultimately, no politician or person is going to get everything he or she wants. In a recent interview, Fiscal Commission co-chair Al Simpson made this point:

You don’t compromise yourself; you compromise an issue. There’s a hell of a lot of difference between compromising an issue and compromising yourself, and if they don’t understand that distinction, they shouldn’t really be in politics...

Anything in life is a compromise. Marriage, it’s a compromise. Raising children is a compromise. Why would you leave it out of legislating our government? It’s absurd. It doesn’t make any sense. There isn’t a person alive that doesn’t compromise every day on something without losing their identity or becoming a chicken, or a coward, or a bully.

Bravo to Rep. Fattah for realizing that a bipartisan plan is way better than doing nothing, even if it not his favorite plan.