Retiring Congressman Tom Latham is offering this advice to those who’ll serve in the U.S. House and Senate next year: “do some big things.”
“We’ve got to address our long term debt,” Latham says. “We’ve got to look at entitlements…They’re not sustainable as they are and so I’m hopeful that there will be some serious legislation. We have a great opportunity but also great hazards, too, if in fact we’re not successful.”
House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama were rumored to be on the verge of what was called a “grand bargain” a few years ago, but the deal fell through. Latham and Boehner have become best friends during their time in congress over the last 20 years and Latham says he’s told his friend to “think big” and seize “the opportunity of a lifetime.”
“The speaker very well knows that this is an opportunity in a limited time,” Latham says. “And I don’t know how long he’s going to stay there, but he knows that if history is going to treat him well and treat the congress well, then something needs to be done and something very significant.”
With the 2016 presidential campaign essentially underway today, Latham cautions that “it’s going to be difficult” to reach agreement.
“You’re going to have people on both sides of the aisle that will use it as a political weapon if, in fact, you try to have a ‘grand bargain’ — a big deal that would give us solvency in the long term and that’s the unfortunate part of it…Anything is possible,” Latham says. “…I think if the president would lead, I think it would make it very possible, but he’s always been very hestitant and the ‘grand bargain’ they almost had a few years that he walked away from, you know, we were right there and it didn’t happen.”
Republicans will hold a huge majority in the U.S. House and the GOP will take over control of the U.S. Senate in January. Latham suggests a good first step would be for the president to sit down and start negotiating with congressional leaders from both parties.
“To have anything that’s going to actually work long term, that’s not going to be used as a political club in the future, it has to be bipartisan,” Latham says, “and if the president will lead, I think that there is a huge appetite on both sides in the House and Senate to actually get that big deal done.”
Latham decided about a year ago that he would not seek reelection in 2014. Latham, who is 66, describes serving in congress as the “honor of his life.” He plans to vacation “somewhere warm” and talk with his wife about what part-time work he might choose to take in the future.
Latham discussed his career and his future plans during taping of the Iowa Public Television program, “Iowa Press,” which airs tonight at 7:30.