Let sun shine in on federal budget negotiations

We were encouraged last week when President Barack Obama challenged Congress to forego its Fourth of July recess and stay on the job to solve the country’s financial crisis. Obama seemed to be seconding The Examiner’s editorial: “Now is the time to act. Business as usual has no place when the country’s future is in peril. Cancel all recesses and junkets, park Air Force One, and get back to the capital and do your job.”

With the national debt at $14.3 trillion and an Aug. 5 deadline for deciding whether to raise it again so Washington politicians can continue borrowing 40 cents of every dollar they spend, the urgency of The Examiner’s suggestion hasn’t lessened.

Alas, Obama then boarded Air Force One and flew off to do multiple campaign fundraisers. After gathering up the contributions, Obama came back to Washington to take full advantage of the many opportunities presented by Independence Day festivities to appear presidential.

Sadly, there were no meetings on the president’s official weekend schedule that included both congressional Democrats and Republicans to work on a budget agreement that could put the country back on a path toward economic growth, a balanced federal budget and a reduced national debt. In other words, Obama felt he had an excuse to play politics with the economic crisis last week when Congress failed to stay at work through the
Independence Day recess.

What Obama and too many congressional leaders in both parties still don’t realize is that business-as-usual politics are over. A recent Rasmussen Reports survey illustrated how wide the gulf is between the country’s political leadership and most Americans. Sixty-eight percent of ordinary Americans say the country is heading in the wrong direction, but 72 percent of the political class contend it is going in the right direction.

In a related vein, Gallup recently reported public approval for Congress is now down to 17 percent. Obama has little room to gloat over Congress’ troubles, however, as he is currently in a dead heat with a “generic Republican” 2012 presidential nominee when Rasmussen asks likely voters who they favor in the White House.

So not only do we repeat our previous admonition to Obama and the leaders of both parties in Congress to suspend all recesses, foreign junkets and campaigns for re-election, we also believe it’s time to bring the budget negotiations out from behind Washington’s closed doors. Let Senate and House leaders appoint their respective negotiators, then meet with the president while C-SPAN cameras are rolling, and keep on meeting until they reach an agreement.

We’re confident such a broadcast will be among the most widely watched ever, and the American people will definitively see who among the negotiators understands the country’s problems and what must be done to solve them.

As former Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis said, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

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