First-term Republicans in Congress who believe compromise is a “dirty word” are the chief obstacle to tackling fiscal challenges facing the U.S., said David Axelrod, the former senior adviser to President Barack Obama.
The U.S. can’t continue to bow to Republicans who are threatening to shut down the government unless tax and spending cuts they endorse are made law, Axelrod told an audience of stock traders at an industry conference in New York today.
“There’s a view particularly among some new people elected to Congress that ‘we want 100 percent of our position or we shut the government down,’” Axelrod said. “We can’t let principled compromise become a dirty word.”
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives yesterday approved a bill to keep the government operating for two weeks while budget talks continue, and the Senate approved the measure today.
Obama’s view is “if you can get 80 percent of what you want, you ought to be able to yield on 20 percent; you might even go to 75,” Axelrod said.
He also criticized lawmakers for failing to agree on a measure to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
“We can’t operate two weeks at a time,” Axelrod said. “No business can operate that way, the country can’t operate that way,” he added.
Axelrod, 55, a longtime adviser to Obama, returned to Chicago early this year to prepare for the 2012 re-election campaign as the president’s approval ratings hovered between 45 percent and 50 percent in major polls over the past month.
“People have mandated we have a Republican House, a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president,” Axelrod added. “Now we have to act on it.”
Axelrod said some Democrats advised Obama to hold firm to his position against extending Bush-era tax cuts on personal income above $250,000 per couple. Instead, Obama forged a bipartisan consensus that Axelrod said made the 2010 lame-duck session one of the most productive in memory.
More bipartisan cooperation is needed to contain the country’s three greatest fiscal challenges: an explosion in the growth of entitlement programs, a “bloated” military budget and “tax cuts we can’t afford,” Axelrod said.
“We have to avoid absolutism, we have to avoid unyielding dogmatism,” Axelrod said.
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