Our country is facing the greatest threat to our freedom and future since 1941. Any honest view of our debt, deficits, size of government and demographic challenges shows we must make major changes if we are going to pass on the American way of life to our children. Each week seems to bring new warning signs: slower-than-expected growth (already as much as 25 to 33 percent every year, some estimate), higher-than-expected unemployment numbers, admonitions to get our act together from the international financial community.

As the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid bears special responsibility for failing to direct attention to the central challenges of our time. His floor strategy seems to be focused on saving Democrats more than democracy. I would relish a debate on tax earmarks, spending cuts and competing budgets (if there were competing budgets), yet the votes he seems most interested in scheduling — such as tax breaks for big oil companies — are designed for short-term political gain rather than long-term deficit reduction.

It is not realistic to expect six members to pull the Senate out of its dysfunction and lethargy. Some will ask why we should have more hope in an open, deliberative process, in which all senators are engaged, when a dedicated few did not succeed. The America I know comes together when tough times call for us to do so. It’s time for the Senate to earn its reputation as the world’s greatest deliberative body and help lead that effort. The constituency to help 60 senators agree on a balanced deficit-reduction plan already exists among the public. The public rightly prefers spending cuts over revenue increases, but numerous polls indicate the vast majority of Americans would support the only type of plan that would ever make it out of Congress and be signed into law: one that favors spending cuts over revenue increases but includes both.

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