Rep. Steven LaTourette’s announcement this week that he will not seek re-election underscores the difficulties that face elected officials who try to take a constructive, bipartisan approach to dealing with the nation’s most important challenges – notably the need for fundamental fiscal reforms.
“For a long time now, words like compromise have been considered to be dirty words,” the Republican said in a press conference in his Ohio district Tuesday. “And there are people on the right and the left who think that if you compromise you’re a coward . . . . you’re an appeaser.”
LaTourette, who has served in the House since 1995, has built a reputation as a moderate who seeks bipartisan compromise and is willing to challenge members of his own party when he feels they are taking less constructive positions. His frustration, echoed by many other moderates in Washington, should serve as a warning to American voters that partisanship and political intransigence are clouding the country’s future.
That’s particularly true in fiscal policy, as LaTourette indicated in his press conference. He understands the need for sweeping changes to put the federal budget on a more responsible and sustainable course, as recommended by an array of bipartisan groups, including the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (Simpson-Bowles). He plans to continue working towards a bipartisan deficit-reduction deal in his final months in Congress.
LaTourette deserves high praise for the budget plan he introduced earlier this year with Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) Based on the recommendations of a bipartisan majority of the Simpson-Bowles commission, the Cooper-LaTourette legislation was the only budget plan to receive bipartisan support in the House this year.
While House Republicans later approved a more partisan plan, Cooper-LaTourette remains a model for the big compromises that will eventually need to be made by both parties. It would spread the burden of reform fairly by making changes throughout the federal budget.
That’s why The Concord Coalition announced three weeks ago that it is honoring LaTourette, Cooper and 36 other House members from both parties for their courageous and far-sighted support of the Cooper-LaTourette legislation. At a Sept. 20 dinner in Washington marking Concord’s 20th anniversary, Cooper and LaTourette will accept the 2012 Paul E. Tsongas Economic Patriot Award on behalf of all of the honorees.
As LaTourette prepares to retire from the House, he deserves credit for his hard work and determination in seeking to preserve America’s economic strength and protect future generations from unmanageable debt. We wish him well -- and hope that his efforts will continue to inspire others to put the nation on a better course.