Washington, D.C., seems light years away from the Tri-Cities sometimes, not just in miles but in values.
Here, as there, we differ on how to get things done and what things we need to do. But we tend to work these things out, one local interest group to another, without a lot of drama.
There, the numbers are immensely larger but the concepts are quite similar -- finding the right balance between money and services.
It is against this background that we welcome, enthusiastically, the appointment of Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., to co-chair the debt reduction supercommittee with Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas.
We know a little about Hensarling, but Sen. Murray is as familiar to us as an old tennis shoe.
She is a hard-working senator with much to show for her long service to the people of the state and nation.
Most importantly, she feels like one of us, someone who will speak her mind -- and be consistent in her stands -- on both sides of our politically divided state.
Yep, she's a Democrat and the majority of the folks around here do not vote her way. That seems to be OK with Murray (although we are sure she would like more support over here).
She has challenged the federal bureaucracy on behalf of the people: She was not alone but led the congressional push that kept the Veterans Administration from closing Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VA Medical Center in Walla Walla.
Cleanup of Hanford has had no better friend than Murray.
She is available and active when special projects, such as the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center, need help with the federal bureaucracy.
The west side of the state has to be particularly pleased with Murray's successful insistence that the Air Force re-bid its flawed tanker competition to give an American company, Boeing, a fair chance. And when the rules were leveled, Boeing emerged the winner and the job situation in Seattle and environs was saved from near catastrophe.
Her co-chair is a highly regarded conservative from Texas who is also glad to be serving on the supercommittee.
Hensarling is a stranger to most of us.
He was first elected to Congress in 2002 on a campaign centered on reducing taxes.
"Times are tough, and Texas families have had to make many sacrifices over the last few years," Hensarling wrote to his constituents on his website after being named to the debt supercommittee.
"While they didn't cause this debt crisis, they've learned how to make do by tightening their belts and living within their means.
"It's time Washington did the same."
He said he's eager to work with his 11 colleagues to "help solve our spending-driven debt crisis."
Hansarling voted against all the stimulus packages during the Obama administration.
He voted for the stimulus package under President Bush, but against the Troubled Assets Reform and Accountability Act of 2008 (also under President Bush) and almost, if not all, others since.
So raising revenue will probably not be on his agenda for the supercommittee.
Murray, on the other hand, said all options are on the table.
"I would hope that the groups, that the media, that the pundits and that the American people will give us a little space and time, and try not to pigeon-hole each and every one of us, or throw rocks, and to allow us the ability to look each other in the eyes and find common values that we have to move forward," Murray said of the new supercommittee.
"I hope none of us (in the committee) draw lines in the sand before we even have an opportunity to sit down."
Formally named the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the Congressional group is a 12-member bipartisan, bicameral panel charged with finding at least $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade.
Much rides on its success.
Everyone coming to the table should be to some degree flexible. Even the no-more-taxes advocates must realize that negotiations can't take place when one side just says no.
That's not negotiation, that's dictation.
It is not some out-of-office theorist to whom members of Congress owe their allegiance, but the American people.
Hensarling's words about his constituents in Texas, "They didn't cause this debt crisis," apply to ordinary Americans in every state.
Voters in every state put in office people they thought would help solve the crisis. So far, our leaders have failed us.
This supercommittee may be the last chance Congress has to save face with voters.
- Tri-City Herald