I have read with interest the (many) articles and columns regarding the so-called fiscal cliff. Three important points are rarely mentioned:

First, in important ways, the failure of the political parties to reach compromise validates the durability and genius of our Constitution. Divided government is meant to curb the potential excesses of any one faction, and in the current case, that is exactly what is happening — the Republican House is curbing the ambitions of the White House and the Senate, and the White House and the Senate are curbing the ambitions of the House. Others call this dysfunction; I call it a brilliant example of the strength of our system of government.

Second, come Jan. 1, if no deal is reached, a series of tax hikes and budget cuts will take effect, pursuant to legislation enacted as part of the last debt-limit negotiations. This legislation itself reflects the outcome of compromise among the same divided government, and we can presume each faction considered it at least minimally acceptable back then; otherwise, it would not have been enacted. We shouldn’t view a failure to reach a new deal as an example that our system doesn’t work. Instead, we should understand that the system has already worked. It is rare legislation that is viewed by all stakeholders as perfect, and this is no exception.

Finally, all the drama regarding the fiscal cliff notwithstanding, if no deal is reached by Jan. 1, the world won’t end, and Americans will have the same rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the same constitutional rights, that they had at 11:59 the night before. Is our system perfect? No. But does it work? Yes, imperfectly, and exactly as designed.

Rich Davis, Laurel

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has an opportunity for real heroism. Will he seize it and become the speaker who put the good of the nation ahead of politics, or will he fade into obscurity, unable to muster the courage to take a bold step?

This is his chance to bring House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to the table, to negotiate a deal that will pass the Senate and receive enough Democratic and Republican votes to pass the House, even if he doesn’t get a majority of his own caucus.

It’s a challenging assignment, requiring great political skill. It also requires a change in direction for Mr. Boehner, who has been passing bills with just Republican votes. He’ll have to let the Democrats into the action.

David C. Roberts, Potomac


In his Dec. 23 Sunday Opinions column, “Beating down Boehner,” Dana Milbank made the point that the House Republicans who are most adamant that taxes not be raised on anyone, regardless of income, are fundamentally beholden to the Club for Growth, which funds primary challenges against many of those who fail to support its views.

I believe that those who support a more reasoned approach to budget issues (and gun control, too, for that matter) would be well- advised to take the same approach and form organizations that raise funds for the purpose of challenging in political primaries those who refuse to consider raising taxes under any circumstances (or who refuse to support reasonable gun control measures).

Until those who support these reasonable positions adopt tactics similar to those of the far right, there can be little hope or expectation that the holders of such extreme positions will relent.

Robert Lightsey, Alexandria