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March 17, 2015 Column in the Orlando Sentinel

March 17, 2015

Last month I reconnected with my former boss – Congressman Lou Frey – who I hadn’t seen in 43 years when I was his press secretary.   He gave me a copy of his book – “Political Rules of the Road” -- a compilation of “rules” Members of Congress have lived by over the years.  I found the observation by former Congressman Leon Panetta (D-CA) interesting:

“We govern either by leadership or crisis,
or in Congress, more by crisis than leadership.”

His observation applies to both the Congress and the current Administration.   In past years Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton were willing to make the tough choices when it came to spending cuts and increasing revenues.  Their actions averted  economic crises.   In recent years, such hasn’t been the case.  For years the U.S. Senate under Harry Reid’s “leadership” failed to produce a budget and the appropriations bills weren’t acted upon, leading to a “crisis” where Congress kept the government from shutting down by last minute Continuing Resolutions.

This past month we saw our government facing yet another “crisis.”  The Department of Homeland Security’s funding was about to run out. Conservative Republicans wanted language that stopped the implementation of Obama’s overreaching unilateral immigration policies. Policy-wise they were right, but it was clear they didn’t have the votes, especially if the President vetoed such a bill. Add that recently a Texas judge placed an injunction on the implementation of those very same policies saying not doing so would negatively impact the lawsuit 26 states brought against this Obama overreach.  So Congress didn’t need to take this stand.  The bill was finally passed without the “blocking” language, but as conservative Republicans we might want to pick our battles more carefully; balancing positions against reality (do we have the votes?). 

This time a “crisis” was averted.  Is the Administration wrong in continually overreaching its authority?  Absolutely! But in the end this immigration debate will probably be decided in the courts, at least while the current Administration is in power.

When Lou Frey served in Congress it was a more civil time.  Even though Members of Congress and Presidents may have disagreed they were not the bullies we see today.  All of us can learn a lot from those days.  It’s OK to disagree without being disagreeable and by working together and dealing with tough issues head on we can have leadership and not” leadership by crisis!” Now that's something to think about!

Bill Sargent