Compromise In Congress: Does System Work After All?

Originally published on August 2, 2011 10:00 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


Ron, good morning.

RON ELVING: Good to be with you Steve.

INSKEEP: Does compromise mean the system works, after all?

ELVING: In a sense, it does - if this is what you consider a workng system. We did drag ourselves across the finish line, so it appears the Senate's going to vote today. It came down to a weekend deal between the Senate Republican leader and Vice President Joe Biden. They have done business with each other over the years. They seem to trust each other and they were responsible for the deal, back last December. If that's the way our system works - it seems rather tenuous and it doesn't seem like quite what the founders may have envisioned in 1789.

INSKEEP: You're saying that it got down to one personal relationship that's worked in the past, and if it hadn't been for that, it could've been a disaster?

ELVING: Well, we some other personal relationships that seem to be working. President Obama was working with Speaker Boehner and they had a global - well, not a global deal but they had a grand bargain.

INSKEEP: They were on their way to one, yeah.

ELVING: Yes, and that would've been far better. It would've pleased the markets more, the rating agencies more, it would've probably pleased the country more and been a much more balanced deal. But, the Speaker had to walk away from it because his caucus - his Republican caucus in the House would not back him.

INSKEEP: Now just very briefly, here, Ron. Setting aside the substance of the bill - whether it's good or bad - does the manner in which it was arrived, this narrower version of what people felt would be a disaster, cause lasting damage to the United States and to the political system?

ELVING: Yes, in a sense I think these kind of bruises do not heal - at least not quickly. What matters now is how we address that bruise, how we address the setback. Do we go forward in the fall, with a real spirit of compromise between the House and the Senate, and between Republicans and Democrats, and try to come up with a balanced package for trying to bring down the nation's long term deficit. If so, maybe we've learned something from this summer, maybe that'll be to the good.

INSKEEP: Ron, thanks very much.

ELVING: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving, speaking with us here on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.