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Analysts: Comporise nowhere in sight on Capitol Hill

By Kaitlin Loukides
Published On: Oct 03 2013 07:24:18 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 04 2013 04:57:43 PM CDT

Why can't elected lawmakers learn to work together?

POCATELLO, Idaho -

With the United States government still unable to reach a resolution, thousands of employees are out of work until a deal is reached.

But the big question on most Americans' minds for decades is once again surfacing to the forefront: Why can't our elected members of Congress just learn to work together?

Jim DiSanza is an expert when it comes to conflict resolution and now teaches and chairs the Idaho State University Department of Communication, Media and Persuasion. He said this time around, the war between the House and Senate is so heated, we will not be looking at them striking a deal anytime in the near future.

"I think this is the most contentious, the most gridlocked anybody has ever seen," DiSanza said. "Perhaps a second recession in the United States, perhaps even a global recession, the loss of faith in the American currency and in American treasuries -- perhaps that is so serious that would force some compromise."

DiSanza said the key to putting an end to this congressional gridlock and finding some sort of conflict resolution, in any situation, is providing enough incentive for both parties to want to compromise. 

However, he said in this case, he does not see any short-term fixes to make anyone want to compromise on the government shutdown. But, when it comes to the debt ceiling, he said the consequences of not raising that are so serious, it might force congress to compromise quickly.

Dr. Sean Anderson is a political expert and chairs the Department of Political Science at ISU. Both he and DiSanza agree this comes down to elected lawmakers feeling as if a compromise will resemble a sign of weakness to their constituents. If they want to be reelected, they will not waver.

"This issue is now completely fixed upon party lines," Anderson said. "There are just very few on either side who are going to step out of line and break with their own party."

That, in itself, only provides incentive to further the refusal to negotiate.

Anderson said the end is near only if one of two things happen:

1. Hardworking Americans getting fed-up with not being able to use certain government services after weeks of not functioning. So, they write-in and call-up members of congress and prove angry enough to light the fire under their seats with the threat that enough upset voters will cost them the next election. 

2. Anderson said the government would spark back up if there was a major threat to US national security. Meaning, if the nation suddenly started facing a terrorist threat, the bickering would be placed on hold and they would find a way to work collectively.

While this episode of congressional bickering is yet again causing congressional approval ratings to rapidly decline, Anderson said there is still an attraction politicians experience when it comes to staying in D.C.

"They somehow can't get go of Washington," Anderson said. 

But the "addictive" aura of working in the nation's capital is not about making money. Anderson said most members of Congress are raking in money somewhere well into the millions of dollars, so the $200,000 paycheck they earn in Congress is just merely chump-change.

So, what is it about then? 

Anderson said politicians enjoy the fame and publicity that comes with being one of the country's leading lawmakers.

So, will the gridlock end anytime soon?

DiSanza said not unless we go back to the basic fundamentals of conflict resolution: finding that cookie, that dangling carrot called "incentives" first.

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