Republican Senator Bennett was defeated in his attempt to be renominated for a fourth term as senator from Utah last week by an outraged Tea Party convention — although outraged about what remains unclear. I knew Senator Bennett distantly, disagreed with almost all of his policy beliefs, strongly supported his bipartisan effort with Senator Wyden to reform health care, and respected him.
The only major new idea in the health care legislation passed this year is the health care exchange. It is also the only idea with a chance of changing the unsustainable spending course we are now on. It came from the Wyden-Bennett bill (although then in a much stronger form) that hovered on the edge of the debate for months. And Wyden-Bennett was the only bipartisan proposal out there throughout the debate.
In the end, I suspect that this very fact was a big point against him with the crazies. Too bad: he was principled, courteous to those who disagreed with him, did not go around with that perpetual sense of anger affected by the ideologues on both sides, and was willing to take a risk. As the issues get harder over the next decade and we head toward an impending crisis in 2018, we will miss Senators like Robert Bennett because we will need bipartisan efforts to deal with our growing challenges.
Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Braintruster Bo Cutter is formerly a managing partner of Warburg Pincus, a major global private equity firm. Recently, he served as the leader of President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) transition team.