Tell me if any of these sound familiar:
"Oh she's fantastic, but..."
"Things would be perfect if only he would..."
"I love a good fixer-upper."
I guess it's human nature. It has catastrophe written all over it, but we do it anyway. And if we haven't done it, we know people who have. You get into relationships, invest some time and energy knowing all along some things are not quite right. Then six months pass, a year, two. You know you should get out, but by that point you've invested so much in the relationship that you start saying things like "it'll get better. He/she just needs to..."
We all know better. How often do people really change? Well, sometimes they do. It's true. But more often than not what happens is we stick with such a relationship far beyond its expiration date. Sometimes, we even try to fix it with marriage (a horrible idea, but maybe at the time it felt like a 'hail Mary') or worse, kids. And by that point, the hole is so deep you need mountain-climbing skills to get out of it.
That's pretty much how Congress is behaving right now. And it's pretty much how the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) passed yesterday. The BBA essentially debuted in the House on the eve of the Christmas holiday. Think of it like scrambling to find a date at 2pm on the day of an event. Some date is better than no date at all, right? That's what we tell ourselves.
The House as a whole didn't know the BBA all that well, but they needed a budget and this one presented itself. Or rather, it was presented by Representative Paul Ryan, with his shiny smile and even shinier words that glossed over some of the budget's bigger blemishes. So the House picked its dance partner and went home for the holidays.
But by the time Representative Ryan and Senator Patty Murray handed the Act to the Senate, everyone had had more time to examine the BBA. And this glaring problem was clear: the BBA cut military pensions significantly. At the time of the cloture vote, several Senators knew it. Over the course of the next day and a half of debate more and more of them came to recognize the problem. (That's due in large part to all of you, by the way. #KeepYourPromise was over 50 million in reach ahead of yesterday's vote! So thank you.).
By the time the vote occurred yesterday, every Senator was aware of the BBA's disparate impact on military and veterans, and every one of them who spoke about it admitted it was a problem.
But they passed the BBA anyway. Why?
Of course, none of these things are what Representative Ryan said. His position is that this country is "exceptionally generous" with its military to begin with, so cuts are ok. He is dead wrong and worthy of no further words.
But the Senate, they don't think this is right. They were just afraid of the alternatives. They were afraid if they tried to fix this one problem, other bigger problems might present themselves. So they legislated a fixer-upper.
I do not understand this "we can fix it later" philosophy, or why it seems to pervade the lawmaking that has occurred in recent years. If I did my job that way, I would get fired. And make no mistake, I deal with plenty of gridlock on my own teams; in the eyes of my employer, that has never absolved me from getting the job done. And we, the people, are the employers of our legislators.
So BBA passed, and at least for now, military and veterans under 62 are facing retirement cuts that will go into effect in 2016.
But the good thing about this situation, and what makes it different from the futile efforts of your best girlfriend to fix the awful clod she's dating, is that we can be involved in ensuring that this change actually happens. At the same time they were passing the budget, a number of Senators and Representatives from both sides of the aisle told the American people that they believe this is wrong, and have said they will work on a solution to the retirement problem.
Now our job is to hold them to it. I urge you to keep telling your Senators and Representatives to #FindAWay to #KeepYourPromise to our men and women in uniform. I outlined some ways to do that here.
More to follow. Let's all hope that this is one of those times that things really do change, and make sure our leaders know that is exactly what we want.