Cornell University

October 17 2013

Saving Face

Mediator could help ease congressional discord, Scanza says

Rocco ScanzaAn eleventh hour congressional deal appears to have pulled the United States from the debt crisis brink.

But, if Congress hits an impasse of this magnitude again, it should think hard about bringing in a professional neutral, according to Rocco Scanza.

Executive director of ILR's Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution, Scanza says a mediator could reduce hostilities, suggest new approaches and hasten solutions.

A political impasse froze federal government Oct. 1 because Democrats and Republicans couldn't agree on a government spending package for the fiscal year that began the same date.

In the meantime, the United States nearly ran out of money to pay its bills.

A neutral's assessment of the dispute could have helped clear a faster path to closure, Scanza said.

And, a mediator could provide "face saving" for politicians who took extreme positions, but now want to rebuild relationships, he said.

Tensions that linger from this month's deadlock will ease more quickly if an insider takes on the neutral's role, said Scanza, a professional mediator and arbitrator.

"Congress could get lucky with the emergence of a mutually respected senator or congressperson with mediation skills, albeit, someone who has not been active in the fray."