Commentary on programs and public issues discussed at luncheons of The Denver Forum are provided on a select basis.
The commentaries are offered, as are all programs of The Denver Forum, in the public interest, and in behalf of the dialogue of democracy.
August 12 Senator Udall spoke to The Denver Forum. The following week he sent an open letter to constituents, one that was reflective of what he said at The Forum. With my encouragement his views were posted to the Huffington Post, and may now be read here as well.
President, The Denver Forum
Calling It Like I See It: Congress, the Tea Party, and the Way Forward
I want to share a few thoughts about how Congress is working, or isn't working, and our country's direction.
I spent most of last week touring local businesses in my home state of Colorado, talking directly with people and hearing about what's going on in their lives and communities. Not everyone agreed with my politics, but that didn't matter. What did matter was how much we all agreed on the need for more jobs for Americans and how the partisan gridlock in Washington is hurting our country.
It was a breath of fresh air and a good reminder that beyond the beltway things are done a little differently than in D.C.
The truth is I have never been more frustrated than I am right now with Washington's inability to lead and solve problems. This recession is hurting all of us, and Congress should be devoting 100% of its time to creating jobs, sensibly shrinking our budget deficit, helping private businesses grow, and cutting red tape.
Instead, many of our elected officials are playing chicken with our economy to score political points and win elections. It's little wonder Congress' approval rating has fallen to an all time low.
You know what, we've earned it.
There is no getting around it; Congress is failing the American people.
Despite my preference to not assign blame, at some point I have to stand up and call it as I see it.
The hard truth is that some Republicans in Washington, unlike many Republicans in Colorado, have become so unbending in their ideology and so unwilling to move an inch towards compromise, that they have made Congress dysfunctional. Our nation was even brought to the brink of a national default a few weeks ago because of an insistence on a rigid partisan agenda.
In a country as large and diverse as America, compromise is how we get things done. It isn't always pretty, but we have to find solutions to our problems that, at the end of the day, most people can live with. We can't allow one fringe part of the Republican Party to dominate the political discussion and hold our government hostage to get their way.
I understand many of my Republican colleagues in Washington are feeling pressure from within their party not to compromise. For them to go against the extremist Tea Party position is politically risky and might hurt them in an election. But we aren't elected to perpetually run for office. We are elected to lead, and at times like this, we need to put the needs of our country ahead of our respective parties.
Let me give you one example. In 2002, I voted against authorizing the war in Iraq because I believed it would be a costly and misguided effort that would ultimately turn our focus away from Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda was based.
That move earned me respect with many within my party. But my subsequent votes to continue funding for our troops overseas earned me their ire and made me a constant target of Democrats who disagreed. I heard and understood their concerns, but at the end of the day, I was elected to represent all of Colorado, not just my party. I did what I felt was right for our country.
We need our friends across the aisle to do the same and stand with the American people in these difficult times. It's beyond time to put the needs of working families ahead of rigid ideology and party politics. If we are truly serious about helping working people get ahead, it's time to stop the brinkmanship that is dragging down our economy and taking away good American jobs.