In the continuing saga of a dysfunctional national government, the long-awaited sequester will kick in on Friday, March 1. This didn’t need to happen, but realistically, there was never any doubt that it would.
Now, besides dealing with the consequences of inaction on sequester, Congress must address increasing the debt ceiling and a continuing budget resolution in March and the joint budget resolution for the next fiscal year due April 15. None of these will happen unless President Obama rolls up his sleeves and becomes personally involved.
Up until now, both parties have steadfastly held to talking points and campaign rhetoric. The president has held a few short media event meetings with congressional leaders while relying on campaign-style events to rally public support for his ideas. Finger pointing and placing blame has not and will not result in any type of agreement. The country is suffering because there is no leadership. For this to stop and real solutions be developed and passed into law, here is what President Obama must do:
1. Notify the speaker of the House, House minority leader, Senate majority and minority leaders, chairs and ranking members of budget and taxation committees in both chambers, and the head of the Office of Management and Budget that their attendance is required at a series of meetings he will personally chair, Monday – Friday each week of March.
2. State that the result of these meetings will be an agreement on reducing the deficit, fixing the debt ceiling, a framework for tax reform, a continuing budget resolution for the remainder of the current fiscal year, and a joint budget resolution for next fiscal year.
3. Convene the meetings at 7:00 a.m. and go until the day’s agenda is completed. The agenda will be set by the president. Let participants know these meetings will be their only task, and that includes himself. Attendees will not be excused from attendance except for verified family emergencies.
4. Hire or designate a trained facilitator to keep the meetings focused.
5. Establish a set schedule for breaks; no more than one 15 minute break every two hours. Meals will be brought in and will be working breaks.
6. Clearly state at the beginning failure is not an option and that neither side will get everything it wants. Collaboration is what will guide negotiations.
This is not rocket science. It is basic leadership. It’s time for the games to stop and for President Obama to become a real leader.