The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Or so we’re told.
Congress may have found a new definition: Doing the same thing over and over knowing the results will be negative.
Since 2003, Congress has voted 17 times to temporarily defer automatic cuts to our Medicare payment system with what’s known as the “doc fix.” This stopgap measure fails to address long-term costs, keeps doctors uncertain about funding and provides an extraneous yearly distraction for Congress. Instead of permanently dismantling this inefficient process, Congress has continued to keep the insanity going year after year.
But here’s the good news: With the next doc fix deadline coming up at the end of March, there is hope the cycle can be broken thanks to a bipartisan coalition of Problem Solvers.
In November, No Labels Problem Solver Reps. Reid Ribble (R-WI) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) led a group of 96 members of Congress in writing a letter to Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urging permanent Medicare payment reform. This letter didn’t push one particular agenda or get held up on specifics. Rather it set a common sense goal, and said loud and clear to the leadership — if you put a sensible bipartisan solution forward, we stand ready to vote for it.
This group enabled Boehner to go to Pelosi and the Democrats first, sidestepping a partisan bill in favor of involving those lawmakers who view working across the aisle as a strength, not a weakness. There have been numerous instances in the past where the leadership has been forced to go to this group in order to salvage a deal that’s fallen through. This time, setting a common goal and working in a bipartisan manner was the first step, not a last ditch effort.
Succeed or fail, the doc fix deal is a positive show of leadership in the House. It isn’t a perfect solution — the costs are still up in the air, and both sides will have legitimate grievances. But what matters is the process and the precedent that it sets for the remainder of the 114th Congress.
In the twilight of the Obama presidency, it will be easy for Congress to throw up their hands and turn to 2016. This would be a terrible mistake. Responsible lawmakers have the opportunity to build a new nonpartisan coalition that is capable of solving problems. Their focus must remain steadfast on setting shared goals on issues where commonality exists, and relentlessly pursuing solutions that will help us be strategic about our future.
Every generation of American leadership has faced a unique set of challenges, and this is ours: How do we solve our biggest national problems in the face of divided government? The template for success provided by the doc fix deal is a step in the right direction. Now let’s keep the momentum going and stop the insanity.
Jon Huntsman is a former Governor of Utah and Joe Lieberman is a former U.S. Senator from Connecticut. Both serve as national chairmen for No Labels.