Congress seems inclined lately to play the dangerous game of precipice politics. No sooner had it stepped back from the fiscal cliff in 2011 over the debt limit and again on New Year's Day 2013 over huge tax rate increases and spending cuts, than the Senate found itself two days later, on January 3rd, and then again this month, staring into the abyss of a nuclear winter followed by a nuclear summer over the filibuster rule.
On Tuesday, July 23, the Commission on Political Reform hosted a National Conversation on Public Service at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. This event was the second in a series of national conversations highlighting opportunities for reform of our political system. Below is one of a series of posts by BPC summer interns reflecting on their experiences at the event.
As a Democracy Project intern, I had the privilege of watching the preparations unfold over a series of months prior to the conversation itself. It was enormously gratifying to see the Commission’s hard work come to fruition. The amount of work that the commissioners and commission staff put in to organizing this conversation was staggering – from designing the joint BPC/USA Today poll, to organizing the speaker lineup for the Town Hall, to coordinating the Youth Lunch, every aspect of the event was thoroughly and meticulously planned.
Earlier this week, BPC’s Commission on Political Reform convened in Philadelphia, in view of Independence Hall where our nation’s founders drafted the Constitution 226 summers ago, to discuss public service in America.
After serving his country in wartime and spending the better part of five decades in public office—from the Kansas House of Representatives to the Russell County, KS attorney’s office to the U.S. House to the U.S. Senate—no one would have blamed Bob Dole for calling it a career. Had he left the stage for good after running as the Republican nominee for president in the 1996 campaign, Senator Dole’s legacy as an accomplished legislator and statesman could have stood on its own. Of course, Sen. Dole is perhaps best known for his relentless effort. His work is never done. He remains a powerful advocate for veterans and people with disabilities after his own challenging recovery from injuries suffered in World War II. Sen. Dole bridged the partisan divide with humor and a handshake throughout his public life. Even today, 17 years after leaving office, he’s quick to remind listeners of the virtues of principled compromise.
At their core, the big issues of yesterday and today are not all that different. In our country, we experience periods of economic downturns and financial recoveries, societal disgraces and cultural progress, and international unrest and diplomatic breakthroughs. However, one recent political trend marks a departure from yesteryear: a sense of responsibility to the people who elected you to cooperate in order to find solutions to issues of national importance.
"In a stunning admission on ‘Larry King Live’ last night, Bob Dole revealed he is one of the test subjects for Viagra. He said on Larry King, ‘I wish I had bought stock in it.’ Only a Republican would think the best part of Viagra is the fact that you could make money off of it." – Bob Dole, from his book Great Political Wit
The Senate Budget Committee hearing Tuesday on the impact of the FY13 sequester on national defense was summed up by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who noted: “For those who say that Congress can’t get anything right, the sequester certainly disproves that. It was intended to be stupid, painful, and damaging, and sure enough it has been stupid, painful and damaging.”
We have three major takeaways from the hearing, held by Budget Committee Chair Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash).
The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing today to consider a natural resources revenue sharing bill, the FAIR Act of 2013. Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the bill, which is co-sponsored by Senators Mark Begich (D-AK), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA). The bill would provide coastal states and political subdivisions with 27.5 percent of revenues from the development of oil, natural gas, and alternative and renewable energy on the outer Continental Shelf. It would also provide an additional 10 percent to coastal states that establish a fund that supports projects and activities relating to alternative or renewable energy, energy research and development, energy efficiency, or conservation.
It is fitting that as BPC’s Commission on Political Reform holds its “National Conversation on Public Service” today in Philadelphia, Senator Bob Dole also celebrates his 90th birthday. Known for a career dedicated to public service, BPC Co-founder Sen. Dole’s efforts through the years have improved the lives of countless Americans.
The moral challenges of our time can seem less clear, but they still demand conviction and courage and character. They still require young men and women with faith in our process. They still demand idealists captured by the honor and adventure of service. They still demand citizens who accept responsibility and who defy cynicism, affirming the American faith and renewing her hope. --Senator Robert J. Dole
Tomorrow, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) will celebrate the 90th birthday of our co-founder former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. Throughout the week, BPC will honor Senator Dole’s life and career by sharing content from our archives.