The sequestration deadline is today. Most lawmakers are at least uneasy about the across-the-board cuts totaling $85 billion, but negotiations to avoid them have been difficult. Democrats are reluctant to change entitlement programs. Republicans oppose new tax revenue.
Those are the points of discord, but Alex Holland sees fodder for compromise. He’s founding president of The Bipartisan Issues Group – or The BIG – at UW-Madison. He started the group with his best friend, who is of a different political persuasion. Holland says they found they agreed on a lot of the problems that exist, but couldn't find many solutions.
So they started The Big in order to find fixes across the political spectrum: "We need to start brainstorming how to solve issues like the debt, immigration reform or gun control."
Holland also joined the group No Labels, which also advocates for bipartisan dialogue "providing institutional reforms almost all of which are things that the Senate and the House without passing a law can reform." An example: the group advocated for the "no budget, no pay" provision, passed by both houses, in which Congress wasn't paid until a budget was passed.
Though a college sophomore, Holland is on Capitol Hill this week. He’s meeting with both Republicans and Democrats to advocate for a young person to testify before Congress on the sequestration.
"It's my generation, the Millenial generation, that our future's on the line if we don't come together to pass the needed reforms to strengthen this country," Holland says.
"Just in Wisconsin, 500 students are going to lose to some degree, if not all, what they get from the federal government from FAFSA, and as a student that receives FAFSA, that could be me, and that's something we should all unite on."
Holland says across-the-board cuts, taking out the most useful programs with the least useful, are not the solution. And he doesn't expect that there wouldn't be disagreements over what should be cut - "that's natural," he says.
But, he says, "what I would push for is that regardless of our disagreements, we need to find common ground."
Republicans and Democrats must identify their common priorities and work to maintaining those together, rather than arguing over what should be cut.
"I would be hard-pressed if we used that approach to not be able to find programs," he says. "I feel like if we had that kind of context, we could prioritize what is most important, expenditures that our government puts out, and in that sense we can make sure that the most important, the most useful use of government, stay in play while maybe we cut some dead weight."
Holland identifies himself as a Democrat, but says many of his friends are Republicans.