Former Congressman Steven LaTourette speaks about bipartisanship at Hudson library

by Laura Freeman | Reporter Published:

Hudson -- Democrats and Republicans must compromise to make a two-party government work, former U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R) told more than 150 people in the audience March 31 at the Hudson Library and Historical Society.

LaTourette, 59, said he left Congress in 2013 after serving for 18 years because the different parties couldn't find common ground. LaTourette is now president of McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies, a Washington-based lobbying group that provides strategic counsel at the federal government level. He also serves as president of the Republican Main Street Partnership.

"There are certain issues that divide Republicans from Democrats, but everyone recognized that you can't get 100 percent of what you want," LaTourette said. "Today they need to find common ground to move forward to do the things in Washington that people want us to do."

The thing that sent him out the door was the fiscal cliff at the end of 2012, he said.

Tax cuts made in 2001 and 2003 were set to expire in 2013, and if Congress did nothing, everyone would see an increase in taxes, LaTourette said. President Barack Obama said those making more than $250,000 should pay more, but Republican senators defined the rich as making more than $450,000.

"The thing that just amazed me, they voted it down so taxes went up on every American," LaTourette said. "I don't know how that's a good thing, so I left."

LaTourette said the Affordable Care Act, which he didn't vote for, has good things in it and not so good things. He said Congress needs to keep the good and throw out the bad things, compromise and move forward.

He said it wasn't a good strategy to try to shut down the government and force President Obama to give up on his signature program, but he also said it wasn't acceptable for the President to dig in and not negotiate.

"The answer to everything can't be no," LaTourette said about the parties refusing to give ground. "That's not how it works."

Although two parties is recognized as a way to keep a sort of checks and balances system, it isn't realistic for Democrats and Republicans to get 100 percent of what they want, LaTourette said.

"The art of legislation is finding things doable. If you get 65 percent of what you're looking for, it's a pretty good day at the office," LaTourette said. "You have a responsibility to govern the country."

On the nation's debt of $3.9 trillion, LaTourette said 2/3 of the pie is middle class entitlements of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the debt. The last third of the pie is discretionary spending that includes defense.

"The notion that you can't make any adjustments to those programs [Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid] is ludicrous," LaTourette said. "The [current] model is not sustainable."

Democrats have to modernize Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and reduce expenses, LaTourette said.

The budget must be balanced, but Republicans said no to additional revenue, he said. That's not the same as new taxes. Corporations are paying zero taxes even though they make millions in profits.

"G.E. files a 50,000 page income tax form and doesn't pay taxes, but I do," LaTourette said. "Capture the people who don't pay taxes."

Politicians are elected to represent the people, but they're not moving the country forward and blame the other party.

Some states are trying new election strategies to moderate representatives, he said. In California the primary is open to anyone and the top two candidates run in the fall election. They can end up being from the same party.

"To win, a candidate has to attract outside the party," LaTourette said. "It's the power of the middle [Independent Party] that turns the election."

He said it was too early to see if the non-partisan primary would work.

LaTourette said the best way to contact a representative is through a thoughtfully written email that provides solutions and suggestions, not insults.

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