It's no surprise President Obama spent so much time Tuesday night calling for a new era of cooperation in Congress. From the debt ceiling to economic policy to consumer protection, neither side would come together nor cede a win. It's political division at its worst, and that's just party politics. When you fold in corporate and lobbyist influence, the cesspool only gets murkier. Congressional approval is at an all time low. By most accounts, our politics are broken.
But every once in a while the system works...
Two longtime adversaries are leading an all-too-rare effort at compromise and cooperation. The United Egg Producers (UEP) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) -- who rarely see eye to eye on anything -- agreed to a compromise aimed at improving conditions for millions of egg-laying hens while providing a stable and secure future for egg farmers.
Currently, millions of hens are trapped in cages so small that the birds can't even turn around. It's inhumane and unsafe, so it's no surprise HSUS has spent years going state-to-state to phase out these cruel practices. The egg producers, meanwhile, are struggling with shifting standards, challenges in investing in new facilities ("how big do the cages need to be?"), the threat of states competing with differing standards, and their own internal questions defining humane treatment.
Now, the Washington way would be to just bicker, letting both sides lose. That is, HSUS would never get every state to adopt a new standard and the egg producers would suffer from market unpredictability. Instead, both sides came together and hashed out a compromise that will provide a national standard, offering more humane conditions for egg-laying hens and a profitable path for egg producers to adopt these new rules.
It's a lesson in policy-making that Congress desperately needs to take to heart. The president's speech was a good a start -- the destinies of both parties are stitched together. HSUS and UEP won't see eye-to-eye on every issue moving forward (and neither will Republicans and Democrats), but they at least had the wisdom and the responsibility to realize that working together is better than tearing each other apart.
Now comes the hard part -- ensuring Congress doesn't muck up the HSUS-UEP deal. So far, so good... Earlier this week, a bipartisan group in Congress introduced H.R. 3798 -- the Egg Products Inspection Acts Amendment 2012 -- that will put this national standard into law. You should support this common sense effort by contacting your Congressperson right now and asking them to cosponsor the bill.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I consult with the Humane Society of the United States on ways to expand their online community to protect animals and confront cruelty -- something very important to me and my family.