The U.S. Senate has been paralyzed by partisan politics. Democrats and Republicans have been so focused on pushing their ideological agenda (and making the other party look bad), that little progress has been made toward solving the nation's problems.
But earlier this week a positive sign emerged. Five Republicans, including newly elected Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, crossed the aisle to support a $15 billion package to create jobs.
"I believe this is the beginning of a new day in the Senate," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
That might be a bit overstating the impact of this vote, but it does show that Democrats and Republicans can reach common ground if they believe it is for the greater good.
Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said she wasn't specially looking at that greater good when she sided with Democrats. Frankly, she said, she had some reservations about the specifics of the legislation.
"I was torn, but I thought it was critical to send a message that it is possible for us to work together," Snowe said. "It's a confidence-building move."
We, too, aren't enamored with this legislation. Yes, we like the idea of creating jobs and getting folks employed, but we aren't sure the tax breaks it offers to employers will actually work. The proposal exempts employers from paying Social Security payroll tax in 2010 for hiring workers who were unemployed for 60 days.
If a business needs to hire an employee, it seems that saving Social Security tax would be a low priority. Either you need an employee or you don't. In addition, it would make more sense to hire the most qualified person regardless if he or she is currently unemployed or is now working.
The bigger -- and more expensive -- part of the legislation focuses on funding state and local road projects through the use of gasoline taxes. We find it easier to get behind legislation that funds projects that yield tangible results -- highways you can drive on.
No piece of legislation is going to be perfect. That's the nature of the give-and-take of compromise. And let's not forget that this vote wasn't on the final product. Changes will be made as it makes its way through the legislative process.
Let's hope the gesture made by the five Senate Republicans will result in legislation that is truly bipartisan and makes significant progress toward solving problems.