Our Opinion: For Platts, A Final Act Of Statesmanship

York Daily Record

As a parting gift, U.S. Rep. Todd Platts, R-York County, gave us just one more reason to miss him when he leaves office this year.

Bucking the far-right wing of his party, Rep. Platts voted for the compromise that avoided plunging the nation off the fiscal cliff you’ve heard so much about lately. In doing so, he put his country before the interests of his party, statesmanship before partisanship.

In doing so, he showed how we, as a nation, could climb out of the partisan morass. He showed that despite the efforts of those who use ideological purity as an excuse for inaction, and who spend more time trying to accumulate political points with their base, Congress can get something done.

Of course, it took a flirtation with disaster to get something done. And we, as a nation, have come to expect no less. By heroically pulling the country back from the precipice, both parties get to declare victory. By going into overtime, to steal a sports metaphor, both sides get to claim victory, or at least a moral victory. In this cynical exercise in scorekeeping, everybody was a winner.

It is instructive that, in his statement supporting the compromise, Rep. Platts did not declare victory. Certainly, he pointed out some of the positive aspects of the measure — preservation of middle-class tax cuts and protections offered to small businesses and family farms. But he also pointed out that the compromise wasn’t perfect, that it did not sufficiently address concerns about government spending and was a partial solution, a starting point, at best.

It was also instructive that, at a time when a lot of politicians and pundits were caught up in the politics of the matter, Rep. Platts focused on the policy. We’ve come to expect that from him. That’s how he’s operated in his dozen years in the House.

And that, we hope, will provide a lesson to his successor, Scott Perry, who will take office this month. There have been some signs that Mr. Perry may not be an ideologue. He did decline to sign an anti-tax pledge offered by a conservative activist — a pledge that is essentially meaningless and harmful to any act of governing. Still, he does seem to be more ideologically driven than Rep. Platts.

It’s important that Mr. Perry maintain an even keel. For Congress to accomplish anything — and it has a full plate in front of it — compromise is going to have to replace obstructionism. For that to happen, our representatives are going to have to learn that compromise is not a bad thing. It is how things get done.

In his statement, Rep. Platts said he hoped that the compromise on the fiscal cliff would “serve as a starting point for a substantive and successful bipartisan” discussion regarding spending.

That is much easier said than done. Ideology becomes blurred in these issues. For instance, both of our U.S. senators — a Democrat and a Republican — teamed up to fight cuts in defense spending that would affect BAE Systems, a reminder that one person’s wasteful government spending is another person’s job.

It will take statesmanship to negotiate those waters.