By Alex Fitsimmons
Former Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) have been on opposite sides of many political skirmishes over the years. But the senators joined forces Friday to fight for a cause they can both support: bipartisanship.
Addressing a group of more than 200 legislators and legislative staff at the plenary session of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) Fall Forum in Washington, D.C., Lott and Dorgan stressed the importance of reaching across the aisle to address a wide range of issues, from the fiscal cliff to energy reform.
Describing himself as an “incurable optimist,” the former Senate Majority Leader predicted Washington would strike a short-term deal to avert the fiscal cliff, a mix of tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect at the end of the year.
"I believe they will get an agreement," said Lott. "It will be minimal. It will be a long punt."
Lott and Dorgan, who co-chair the Energy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), endorsed an “all of the above” approach to energy reform. Each emphasized different aspects of energy policy – Lott pushed for more oil, natural gas, and coal, while Dorgan talked up renewables – but they both recognized the need for a balanced plan that borrows the best ideas from all sides.
“This economic engine that makes things possible in America is fueled by energy,” said Dorgan, adding that the BPC plans to unveil its comprehensive energy strategy this winter.
Taking questions from the audience, the pair identified numerous issues ripe for bipartisan compromise, including tax reform and filibuster reform. On tax reform, Lott believes Congress could tackle the issue by the end of 2013. On the filibuster, both agreed that current Senate rules foster discord, though they urged Congress to be circumspect in making any changes.
“The lubricant of democracy is compromise,” said Dorgan.