Sen. Curt Bramble just returned from an 11-day trip to Germany and Austria, sponsored by the European Union's Partnership of Parliaments through his role in the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The message he brings back from that trip taken with eight other state lawmakers from around the U.S.: Compromise is the best way to govern.
Hello Mike Lee.
In what I would consider an anti-Lee message coming from a veteran Republican state legislator from Provo who served a term as Senate majority leader, Bramble and his U.S. counterparts on the trip came away with a consensus-building philosophy that seems to be working in the areas they visited.
The message he brings from Europe, and the message Utah's junior senator steadfastly enumerates is, in microcosm, the struggle gripping the Republican Party heading into the mid-term elections in 2014.
Lee, his government-shutdown buddy Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and other tea-party adherents insist on philosophical purity, with no compromise acceptable. To them, resistance is the righteous way because the other side is either evil or misguided.
What Bramble says he observed on the trip that a government cold war between political parties is not constructive. It results in stalemate.
In Austria, he said, a government meltdown similar to the recent U.S. government impasse, occurred in 2010.
The Social Democrats and the Peoples Party, roughly equivalent to the Democrats and Republicans in the United States, were at loggerheads on various issues and could not get agreed-upon legislation through the parliament.
A coalition of several parties in the country finally came together, with all sides giving a little to obtain agreements on energy, taxes and a host of other issues.
Bramble believes the same result can be obtained in the U.S. system between Congress and the president.
It's a matter of recognizing that compromise is necessary in a country with diverse interests, as opposed to an uncompromising stance in the name of principle that results in stagnation.
It happened in the 1980s between Republican President Ronald Reagan and a Democratic Congress led by House Speaker Tip O'Neill to forge major tax reform, and it happened in the 1990s between Democratic President Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress led by Newt Gingrich to pass welfare reform.
Bramble, who along with the other state lawmakers paid his own way to Europe then got his expenses over there paid by the Partnership of Parliaments, said their message will be spread through the NCSL and taken back to their individual states to show by example how compromise is superior to partisan purity.
Lee, Cruz and their supporters have argued that principle should not be compromised. Meanwhile, nothing is getting done.
Bramble, who was recently elected as vice president of NCSL and will ascend to the presidency of the national organization in 2015, formerly was a leader in the American Legislative Exchange Council, a collaboration of business and legislators across the country that is more partisan and normally advances conservative initiatives in the various state legislatures.
He has pulled back from that association, although he says he has respect for it and its adherence to conservative, Jeffersonian principles.
But, he said, it's more of an echo chamber for one set of philosophies, and he has come to believe that's not how best to get things done in govenrment.
Hello Mike Lee.