The making of sausage is elegant compared to the legislative process that unfolded in Washington over the weekend.
With a recession almost certain without action and economic chaos likely in the absence of an agreement by Tuesday, Congress did what it had to do.
Congress passed a bill that reduced the deficit, compared to spending and revenue before the artificial fiscal cliff. It delayed massive spending cuts that would have sent a weak economy into a recession. It avoided defense cuts that would have devastated the north Alabama economy. The bill slightly increased income and capital-gains taxes on the top 0.7 percent of earners. It also allowed temporary payroll-tax cuts to expire.
A few in Congress were courageous. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, allowed a vote on the bill even though his Republican caucus rejected it. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., voted for the bill despite a base that vehemently opposed it.
The only Alabama congressman with the backbone to do what was right instead of what placated his political base was U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, and all six GOP representatives from Alabama — including Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, and Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville — voted against the bill.
The public will, of course, never know how any of them would have voted had their votes been the deciding ones. Sessions, Boehner, Ryan and other Republicans took the political heat for the votes, giving the others the luxury of voting “nay” without being held accountable.
What north Alabamians do know is that if Brooks, Aderholt and Shelby had their way, the defense contractors that support the local economy would be preparing for layoffs. Up to 39,000 Alabamians would have lost jobs as a direct result of the cuts, with Redstone Arsenal hit especially hard. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. would have entered a recession and unemployment would have jumped.
The 18,000 Alabamians on extended unemployment — people who have been unsuccessfully applying for jobs for up to two years — would have lost their means of survival. Income taxes would have gone up on everyone.
The bill that passed Tuesday was not perfect. Americans can wish it had been better, but they can be thankful a majority in Congress had the wisdom to vote for an imperfect bill rather than push the nation into a recession.
Shelby, Brooks and Aderholt believe they scored political points Tuesday. Among Alabama Republicans, however, only Sessions showed he was up to the responsibility of governance.
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