‘Fiscal cliff’ debate is swan song for David Dreier

The early moments of debate and passage of the bill to avert the "fiscal cliff" are under the control of Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), the retiring chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, which sets the rules for debate and votes on legislation.

As House lawmakers debate the rules of debate for final passage of the fiscal cliff bill, members of both parties have acknowledge that Tuesday evening's proceedings are the swan song of Dreier's 32-year congressional career.

After years of rancorous debate on the fiscal bill -- a debate that dominated the current session of Congress -- Dreier attempted to sound a more optimistic tone about the work accomplished by his colleagues since 2011. He cited bipartisan support for free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea and the recent passage of normalized trade relations with Russia.

"These consensus-driven solutions should be a model for the 113th Congress," Dreier said as debate on the rules of debate concluded. "Today we are proceeding with a critical step to avert a serious economic downturn. But this is only the beginning of the work that must be done, as we all know."

"Ultimately, Mr. Speaker, we must reach an agreement that combines meaningful entitlement reform with new revenues in a way that puts us back on a path towards growth and prosperity," he said. "If we’re going to accomplish this, we must work together, Republicans and Democrats, Congress and the White House, the federal government and the states, the public sector and the private sector."

"Some might say that saying those things is a cliché, but as we all know, members are going to have to engage in rigorous debate and there needs to be that clash of ideas, but it needs to be done with good faith and with a spirit of compromise," Dreier added. "I realize that some argue that compromise is a sign of weakness. In fact, one of the great strengths of our nation’s founders."

As he concluded, Dreier said, "I believe that the United States congress can be better than it's ever been."

His colleagues applauded as he returned to his seat.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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