I served for four years with Barack Obama in the Illinois Senate. We had many debates, but were also able to work together on substantive issues. We came from different parties with different priorities, but were able to achieve legislative success for the people of Illinois.
The Barack Obama I knew then was able to drop the partisan wall separating him from a common-sense solution for the good of Illinois. I've seen less of that Barack Obama in the last two years.
As Republicans take control of the House, the $13.7 trillion question is: which Barack Obama will show up for the next two years?
The American people made their voice heard in yesterday's elections, tossing out a liberal majority fixated on ideology over solutions. In the last three elections, the American people have thrown out the Republican majority from Congress in 2006, taken the White House from the Republican party in 2008 and have now decided that the Democratic Majority is not serving their needs in 2010. They have not been shy about expressing their desire for solutions to the very real challenges we face today in economic, fiscal and security areas.
In our time together in the Illinois Senate, then-State Senator Obama showed an openness to negotiating in good faith. Take the death penalty issue, for instance. We had a severely broken death penalty system in Illinois. We both recognized the problem, and, with others, sought common ground to forge a solution.
The death penalty is no junior varsity political issue. The ability and method of the government to end a life goes to the very basis of how we view the role of government in society. Even so, we were able to put together a package of reforms that maintained the death penalty while dramatically improving the fairness and accountability of the process. Our efforts resulted in broad bipartisan support in the Illinois General Assembly.
Fast forward to today's political reality. Super majorities in the House and Senate the last two years with decidedly liberal leadership have eclipsed ideology over pragmatic leadership. With a clear voice, the American people have rejected that approach.
At least 60 new Republicans in the House is an opportunity for the President to turn the page on the last two years and bring a clean sheet of paper to the negotiating table.
With that in mind, here are three initiatives that House Republicans and the White House can cooperate on right away.
1) Ensure the tax relief set to expire in January does not result in tax increases on any of our small businesses. Half of all small business income is reported on individual income tax returns above the "wealthy" $250,000 threshold, so that means we must extend the expiring tax relief across the board. Now especially is not the time to raise taxes on our job creators.
2) Put all currently unspent and/or unallocated TARP and stimulus funds towards relieving the federal deficit. Republicans overspent when in control from 2000-2006, but Democrats have upped the ante by orders of magnitude. The US is on track to double the national debt in just a few short years. We need to aggressively attack Washington's spending and debt problem.
3) Repeal, cut out and shred forever the 1099 tax provision in the new health care law that forces business owners to file a form with the IRS for every business with which they do $600 in annual transactions. This red tape absurdity hinders job creation and must go now.
What Americans don't want from either House Republicans or the President is more talk, more unfulfilled promises. In today's digital age people know more about the government and what it does than ever before. They therefore know what they don't like from the past two years and no amount of speeches or explaining will change their mind.
They sent a clear message yesterday that they want a balance to the government that will solve problems, and we have a real opportunity for that today. The new Republican Majority is serious about solving our many problems. If we are met with the ability that then-State Senator Obama deployed so effectively, together we can bring about the relief and opportunity America needs right now.