Until the new Congress begins in January, there will be a lot of complex, fancy analysis on the recent elections and why Americans voted the way we did. But I believe Americans are disappointed with Washingtonís inability to produce policies addressing tough problems. In fact, Iíve always believed the best politics are good, sound policies that work. Good policy has been far too scarce these days; weíve got to change.
Immigration, health care, budget deficits, Iraq, energy prices, insurance, you name it, Americans have felt Washington is not adequately addressing these and other big concerns. Americans donít see the Senate and House charting new territory, but instead they see Congress kept at bay, hunkered down in a defensive posture.
Now we have a new opportunity. Americans have said theyíre tired of strict ideology and pious partisanship. They want elected officials of all parties and philosophies to find common ground in order to get something done. As your Senator, Iím committed to doing that.
Iíve been in and out of the minority and majority during my 34 years in Congress. But one thing Iíve always been is an American, and doing whatís best for America should always take precedent over any fleeting partisan tug-of-war.
I made no secret of the fact that Iím staying in the Senate because of Hurricane Katrina and the many challenges Mississippians face as we rebuild following this benchmark storm. This ought to be an issue which all of Congress, like Mississippiís own delegation, can find ample bipartisan foundation on which to build.
Proposals to extend the GO Zone tax incentives, designed to encourage economic revitalization and job growth throughout the hurricane-stricken region, should be widely supported. The badly needed efforts to reform the way the insurance industry is taxed and regulated is worthy of bipartisan backing. This is paramount to thousands of hurricane victims who have been snubbed by their insurance companies and are left paying mortgages on slabs more than 14 agonizing months since Katrina.
On the international scene, Americans want us to continue fighting terrorists while finding a new direction in Iraq. Make no mistake, Iraq is a battlefield in the War on Terror. Terrorist organizations from within and outside of Iraq would love to hijack this nation and make it a new base to launch attacks. Obviously, it would be unwise for America to simply withdraw, turning a nation and a people over to terrorist thugs and common criminals.
I feel the departure of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is long overdue. Now the military, Congress and the Administration will be more free to explore innovative options for American success in Iraq. Though our military has done a great job in Iraq, for several years Secretary Rumsfeld has doggedly pursued a strategy that clearly isnít producing the results America expects and deserves. Americans clearly have repudiated this narrow approach.
New ideas could mean more pressure for the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own security. It may even mean dividing that country into sectors. Whatever the proposals, Senators ought to look at them in an open-minded, non-partisan way, putting Americaís best interest at the forefront.
Good policy is good politics, and without good policy, not only do majority parties suffer, but, more importantly, America suffers. The President and the Congress have a new opportunity to work together and produce good policies. Itís an opportunity we must take and make work for the American people.
Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column.
Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email