Gov. Jan Brewer’s State of the State speech Monday left both her supporters and opponents surprised.
The most surprising announcement was that she plans to accept new federal funding in order to expand Arizona’s Medicaid program in accordance with provisions of the Affordable Care Act. This extension would cover citizens who earn less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level ($30,657 for a family of four).
Brewer’s ambitious plan elicited a tepid response from her fellow Republicans in the Arizona Legislature.
Her speech also lacked any mention of Senate Bill 1070, one of her signature policies, and instead focused on the possibility of working with the federal government on immigration reform.
Brewer further highlighted the need to hire more child welfare workers for Child Protective Services, calling it a “moral issue.”
In the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, she announced more funding for school resource officers to guard campuses.
Although her fellow Republicans in the Legislature have yet to rally to her cause, Brewer’s seemingly more open attitude toward compromise is refreshing.
Americans have been saying for years now that “compromise” has become the new dirty word in politics.
Politicians who reach across the aisle are slammed by opponents in elections, and harsh campaign advertisements severely criticize any attempts to compromise.
Former Pennsylvania senator and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s opponents picked apart his voting history in the 2012 Republican primary, harping on his decision to vote for No Child Left Behind. He later explained that he “made a mistake.”
Compromise is a necessity in a democratic republic.
Politicians should focus less on what they see as a weakness and more on the strengths of compromise as a way to make progress while reconciling different viewpoints.
A fair compromise means that both sides make sacrifices to reach a middle ground. Without compromise, our national Congress and state legislatures would likely enact laws that lack contention and make little substantive progress.
The 112th Congress passed 283 public laws during 2011 and 2012 — a disappointing illustration of the lack of compromise among government actors.
Even the 80th Congress, which President Harry Truman infamously dubbed the “Do Nothing Congress,” managed to enact 908 laws between 1947 and 1949.
Some politicians blame this lack of productivity on the split Congress, which is composed of a Democratic-controlled Senate and a Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Attempts at cooperation between the two often flounder and end in failure.
This culture against compromise explains why Brewer’s tentative — and so far untested — overtures remain surprising.
Perhaps she wants to leave a legacy that includes more than shaking her finger at the federal government and insisting that it secure the state’s border with Mexico.
Maybe this is a political move that allows her to take cover and retreat from her previous stance on controversial issues. In any case, we’re seeing milder policy from the governor’s office.
Brewer still faces a significant roadblock: She must convince her colleagues in the Legislature to adopt her agenda as well.
No matter the motives or outcome, I’ll still welcome her apparent attempt to step forward and embrace compromise.
As our national Congress is apparently unable to agree — even when financial turbulence threatens — I’ll take any kind of attempt at progress.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her at @JentryLanza
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