Both parties in Congress have suspended their normal agendas to unite in dealing with the crisis of terrorist attacks on American soil. It was, and is, the right thing to do, and they've done it well, quickly providing necessary resources while resisting hasty enactment of bills -- the Justice Department's anti-terrorism proposal, a further economic stimulus package -- that require additional scrutiny. But they can carry the suspension of their normal instincts and the normal debate too far.
A lot of the skirmishing they abandoned on Sept. 11 was superficial, and its loss is not to be lamented. The budget and health care debates had become point-scoring exercises in which both sides were mainly testing campaign slogans while maneuvering for position in next year's election. It does no harm if some of the bills on which Congress was working are held over until next year -- or until another Congress, for that matter. The managed care bill that is now in its third Congress will, if it passes, have less effect on the quality, cost and availability of health care than the overblown rhetoric on either side suggests. The president's education bill could be worthy legislation if it emerges in good shape from conference, but hardly transforming.
But some of the work that Congress was doing before the attacks was genuinely important; that part of the old agenda should not be suspended. Campaign finance reform before the next presidential election is an issue that matters; so, too, the overdue increase in the minimum wage. The president should be given the trade negotiating authority he seeks and without regard to the current crisis. The debate as to national missile defense ought not be suspended; now more than ever, it would seem to be important.
The Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon took a terrible toll. Normal and vigorous discussion of serious and pressing public policy issues ought not be another casualty.
-- Washington Post
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