Van Hollen’s Moment

His appointment to the 'super committee' provides an opportunity for Maryland's up-and-comer.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi recently appointed one of Maryland’s own, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. This is the so-called "super committee" that has been charged with finding $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in federal budget deficit savings, to stave off the threat of severe automatic cuts that will be triggered if Republicans and Democrats fail to reach agreement. 

For Van Hollen, already a well-respected voice on budgetary issues and a rising star among House Democrats, the appointment carries both great opportunity and great risk. 

The opportunity is that his appointment underscores the rising position of influence he has attained within the House Democratic caucus. This can add to his appeal back home as a leader who can deliver the goods and make things happen for the people of Montgomery and Prince George's counties, or it can backfire.

Congress has never been held in lower esteem by voters nationally.  After the embarrassing spectacle of the debt ceiling debacle, voters are looking to leaders in both parties to stop the bickering and solve this thing, even if that means no one gets everything they want. Based on recent performance, the odds of them succeeding don’t look so good.  Yet, if an agreement does come together, Van Hollen (D-8th) could emerge as one of the leading voices on the Democratic side of the aisle. 

The biggest risk for him is if he tries to play it too safe. One of the core problems that has undermined Congress’s ability to function is the political pressure from back home in "safe" districts like Van Hollen's.  It may prove too tempting to play to the usual constituency groups that make up much of the local Democratic Party's activist base, which would argue against any substantive compromises on entitlement reform or taxes. The same is true on the Republican side.

Van Hollen and his fellow super committee members have some incredibly tough choices to make, and our local Representative is now on the hot seat. 

So will he try to placate his party's base by resisting any effort to compromise at all? Or will he stand up and press for a more comprehensive solution — even a politically risky one — that might risk upsetting his loyal Democratic base? 

Voters want this issue solved, and they expect members of Congress to compromise with each other when necessary for the greater good.  My money is on Van Hollen to rise to the occasion and find a way forward. What do you think?

Doug R August 16, 2011 at 08:21 PM
We need to ask ourselves how an why almost every other major industrialized nation has healthier populations, universal health care coverage, mostly non-profit and regulated, and is spending on average only 8-12% of GDP on health care. Meanwhile, our for-profit, private insurance based system produces less healthy population while spending about 16-19% of our GDP on health care. Again, something is wrong. Solutions, not rhetoric. Equitable sacrifice that does not gut opportunity and security for middle America, or keep our kids from getting an education that they work hard for and deserve. Ask those with historically low tax rates at the top to pitch in a little more again (even at 38% their contributions would be historically low!).
JH August 18, 2011 at 05:08 PM
No more freeloaders. You pay for the education and health care needs of your own family! Too many people want others to pick up the bill ---- don't be a deadbeat. When half the households pay no federal income tax you know we have gone too far. Every household should contribute.
jnrentz1 August 28, 2011 at 05:09 PM
Save money? With the exception of food and medicine, permanently stop all Foreign Aid. Use some or all of the money saved to finance medical research. The United States could gift to the world, treatments and cures for disease instead of our (tax payer) money.
jnrentz1 August 28, 2011 at 05:17 PM
Save money? In court charge a fee in civil cases for those who use foreign language interpreter services. I do not know what our courts language interpreters are currently paid, but a few years ago they were paid a minimum of $55.00 per hour, with a two hour minimum guaranteed. In civil cases, that fee should be paid in advance by those utilizing the service.
jnrentz1 August 28, 2011 at 05:22 PM
Save money? Start a National Sales Tax (NST) of 1% on goods and goods only, costing between $1.00 and $20, 000.00. Services would not be subjected to the NST. The NST would be be temporary expiring after ten years. The NST would be applied to the nation's debt, and only the nation's debt.


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