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How to tackle complex legislation

“Half a loaf is better than none”

President Obama held a press conference this morning. Nothing new in that. In this election year, I’ve pretty much glazed over whenever he shows up.

He did, however, propose something today that got me thinking. He talked about the minority GOP blocking all kinds of Democratic legislation, but noted that the parties agree the middle class should get tax cuts. Why not, he suggested, put aside fighting over tax cuts for the rich and at least pass the middle-class cuts the two parties agree on?

Interesting. Logical. So why didn’t he propose something like this during the prolonged health care debate? Pass those parts that everybody agrees on (and there were some important ones) and deal with the contentious issues separately.

Well, okay, “health care reform” did get done, eventually. Such as it was. But wouldn’t it have been easier and better to first pass the things everyone agreed on, and then tackle the tough stuff? By the time all the compromises were made and arguments settled, the two parties had pretty much thrown out the baby with the bathwater.

Let’s try another big issue. Comprehensive immigration reform. It never gets done, or even started, supposedly because the Dems and the GOP can’t agree on all the nuts and bolts of this juggernaut of an issue. Wouldn’t it make sense to go ahead and pass the parts that everyone does agree on — securing the border, for example? Get that done, at least. Then move on to the conundrums of ID systems, “amnesty,” etc.

Come on, Washington. If it makes sense to break tax legislation into the parts you can pass now and the parts you’re going to fight over forever, doesn’t it make sense to handle other complex legislation the same way?

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