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Will this Congress be productive or dysfunctional?

Sub-freezing temperatures continue on Capitol Hill in Washington early Friday morning, Jan. 9, 2015.
Sub-freezing temperatures continue on Capitol Hill in Washington early Friday morning, Jan. 9, 2015.
J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

Well, Congress is back in action, so keep a firm grip on your wallets. With Utah members in key leadership positions, will this Congress be productive or dysfunctional? Utahns apparently want problems solved and more cooperation.

A survey by Dan Jones & Associates for showed a high percentage of Utahns want Congress to compromise with President Obama to solve the country’s problems. What is the real message here?

Pignanelli: “Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.” — John F. Kennedy

Only strident partisans on either side of the political spectrum are surprised with this recent survey. The results highlight “Utah exceptionalism” of how we approach, and succeed, in our endeavors. Utahns are practical, hard-working, courteous, intelligent people who do not tolerate the nasty Washington, D.C., nonsense of scoring political points without achieving results.

Ultraconservative special-interest organizations — especially those from out-of-state — should read and heed this barometer of Utah emotions. We despise their ridiculous threats against our federal lawmakers to take positions and make statements contrary to how we conduct business. Further, stacks of analysis document how Utah conservatives are of a different flavor than right-wing purists in other states. These studies demonstrate that when applying their individual political beliefs, Utahns reflect the local culture and are on average pragmatic, ecumenical and avoid shrillness. (Boring can be a blessing.) Thankfully, the irrational crazies that do exist are an entertaining minority.

Utahns may have issues with the president but shrewdly understand “Obama bashing” alone does not better their lives and the country.

Webb: Compromise means both sides give a little. The Republican Congress needs to compromise to solve the nation’s problems — but so does President Obama. He talks a lot about compromise and cooperation, but to him compromise means the other side gives in.

Take, for example, the Keystone pipeline. Despite having bipartisan support in Congress and support of the vast majority of citizens, Obama says he will veto any bill authorizing the project. That’s not a great way to enjoy friendly congressional relationships. He could say he’ll sign it, but in exchange he expects Republican support on some other bill he wants. Or he could say he won’t sign it, but will support some other Republican priority. He’s taken the same non-compromise position on any changes to Obamacare.

So, sure, Republicans need to compromise. But not at the expense of giving in to Obama’s every whim.

Utahns have long disliked Congress, while generally approving of their own members of Congress. But the same poll showed that Utahns now think their own representatives in Washington should be held personally accountable if gridlock and dysfunction return. Are Utahns getting fed up?

Pignanelli: Most Utahns are pleased that our congressional delegation occupies extremely powerful positions. But we are also a proud people … and hope our representatives do not upset this opportunity to solve some of the many problems with the federal government. As the Utah Policy poll demonstrates, we want solutions to immigration, national debt, Social Security and all the troubles plaguing the federal government. Sorry, guys — the pressure is on.

Webb: In their new leadership roles, we should expect our members of Congress to tackle the nation’s problems in a responsible and practical fashion. We ought not to tolerate grandstanding and meaningless crusades. Sen. Orrin Hatch, in particular, has been doing and saying all the right things, serving as the Senate’s senior statesman in addressing key issues and bringing the sides together.

Congressman Chris Stewart has long been allied with Glenn Beck, the conservative talk radio firebrand. But Beck recently told Stewart, “We think you are losing your soul,” because Stewart voted for John Boehner as House speaker. Is Stewart making a break with the far right?

Pignanelli: I cry with shame that several of my friends and colleagues listen to the tedious blowhard Beck. Regardless of differences about his positions, politicos agree Congressman Stewart is a decent individual who possesses one of the purest souls in our nation's capital. Stewart followed his heart and the desires of his constituents in supporting Boehner. Rational people hope this nutty outburst will diminish Beck’s audience in Utah.

Webb: I’d say Stewart has found his soul. If Beck no longer likes him, that’s just fine.

I admit that one of my guilty pleasures is watching Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity take on the liberals. But they are entertainers and shouldn’t be taken seriously. They could care less about the practical realities of governance.

And they’re hurting the conservative cause rather than helping it. By pushing Congress so far to the right and setting up right-wing litmus tests, they’re alienating the American people and helping Hillary Clinton become president.

It would have been truly stupid for Stewart to marginalize himself by voting against Boehner. It would have been bad for Utah and bad for Stewart’s congressional career.

Pignanelli and Webb: Congratulations to our friend and former KSL reporter Richard Piatt who was hired as Congresswoman Mia Love’s communications director. Kudos to Love for choosing a well-respected journalist.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D’Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: