Congress is Paralyzed Until More Americans Speak Up
Former Wisconsin Rep.
In addition to the oft-cited ailments of
"Everybody in politics seems today to be very able when it comes to defining their differences; it's a hell of a lot tougher to then move to reconcile those differences," he says.
One of the first tasks of his last term was to help craft the federal stimulus package, he recounts. He says he called in his Republican counterpart to discuss the general plan Democrats had in mind in hopes of finding areas of compromise.
"I said, 'look it, we'd like to have this as bipartisan as possible,' " Obey says, adding that his Republican colleague said
"In other words what I was being told was that whatever we did, they were going to kick the hell out of it. And they did," he says.
Though he was mostly critical of the state of the Republican party during his remarks, Obey hinted that Democrats had blundered while in the majority.
"Just because you've got the votes to do something, doesn't mean you ought to do it. Sometimes you need to pull your punches," he says, following his reflection of the tempestuous health care debate. He also points out that in order to create lasting public policy both sides need to buy into the result -- which also demands no one can get entirely what they want.
Obey was supposed to be joined by former Republican Rep.
The only way to blunt the impact of that reality, Obey says, is for more voters to get involved.
"One of the reasons I quit is because I got damn tired of hearing from people who wouldn't get off their butts and defend themselves," he says. "The problem I think you've got is that there are so many people who pay very little attention to politics that it is only the ardent believers on both sides participating in the process."
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