Around the State
Congress returns from its Fourth of July recess Monday with lots to do and not enough votes to accomplish the task, at least not right now.
The task at hand for the U.S. Senate involves extending the federal unemployment benefits until Nov. 30, passing a porked-up war supplemental appropriations bill, enacting the most sweeping financial reform legislation in congressional history, in the form of the financial reform conference report, and funding our various agencies and Cabinet departments for the next fiscal year, just to name a few. This particular session of Congress is very essential to numerous aspects of our federal government, including filling a vacancy to the highest court in the land. However, it appears very little will actually be accomplished.
The House will need to start considering the 12 routine appropriations-funding bills designed to fund all of our government departments and agencies for the upcoming fiscal year. However, the GOP will attempt to cut the spending, reduce programs and the agency authority contained in these bills. Once the GOP begins offering these amendments, the House Democratic members up for re-election in tight races will begin to get scared and want to avoid these votes. Consequently, the House leadership will be reluctant to do much of this work.
This “running scared fever” will bleed over to the Senate side of our U.S. Capitol where before long Democrats from the U.S. Senate will also want to run for cover from these controversial budget-cutting votes. Remember, this is the same fear that kept the House and Senate leadership from calling up a budget resolution. The fear has made this Congress make history by being the first and only one to fail to pass a budget resolution in either chamber of Congress since it began passing annual budgets in 1975.
Therefore, much if not all of this work will be passed by simply extending the legislation for brief periods of time. Congress has already begun this process of temporary extensions. They did it when they passed the so-called “Dr. Fix” bill. This postpones a 21 percent cut in payments to doctors, but it expires Nov. 30, 2010. The extension of the federal unemployment benefits expires Nov. 30, 2010. There are too many major pieces of legislation that have already been passed this year that have an expiration date of on or around Nov. 30, 2010.
Also, remember that Blue Ribbon panel appointed by the president to study our skyrocketing debt: This panel reports to Congress no later than Dec. 1, 2010. Hmmm … makes you think that Congress will need to be in session after the November elections to clean up and clear up all of these bills that will be expiring on or around Dec. 1.
A congressional session called after the general election has occurred on the first Tuesday in November has been named a “lame duck session.” Typically, these sessions are called for emergency purposes or to clean up a particular legislative item that lingered past the standard legislative fall session. Never before has this writer seen a “lame duck session” teed up so purposefully, and never before has this writer seen a “lame duck session” have so much potential for enacting sweeping legislation notwithstanding the Nov. 2 election results. Watch this 90-second video to get the entire picture of what could occur during this cleverly planned and orchestrated “lame duck” session of Congress.
Elizabeth B. Letchworth is a former four-times-elected United States Senate secretary for the majority and minority (retired). Currently she is the owner of GradeGov.com.