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Washington Week

August 22, 2010 - 6:00pm

Congress is more than halfway through its six-week traditional August recess. While members of Congress are spending time with constituents, family and foreign heads of state in other countries, dozens of Capitol Hill staffers are scrambling and pouring through the U.S. Tax Code, trying to come up with new ideas to pay for the various new government programs that will be proposed this fall.

You see, Planet Pelosi and Harry's Henchmen are going to consider a couple of doozies during the fall session. This fall session will occur a couple of weeks before the long-awaited November elections take place, and also after the election in the "lame duck session." These coveted "pay-fors" can win a member of Congress kudos from the speaker and the Senate leader, all the way up to the president, if their ideas do in fact become a viable offset under the new congressional pay-go rules.

When Congress returns Sept. 14,there are only approximately 15 voting days of congressional session remaining before Congress adjourns in early October. This early October adjournment allows members of Congress adequate time for last-minute campaigning in an effort to keep their jobs for the 111th Congress. Both the House and Senate chambers need to consider a full-session-load's worth of legislation in just 15 days.

This is obviously not possible, so the Senate majority leader has already announced a schedule for the "lame duck" session to occur after the November election. For the first time in our legislative history, Congress has failed to pass through both bodies a single appropriations bill, of which there are 12. These 12 bills, when added together, fund the entire federal government. These 12 appropriations bills expire Sept. 30, and therefore need to be passed by that date. Also expiring Sept. 30 are many other vital government programs, such as these:

  • Federal Flood insurance program.
  • Child nutrition bill.
  • Intelligence authorization bill.
  • Department of Defense authorization bill.
  • Federal Aviation Administration program.
  • Federal highway bill.

Other legislative doozies that Planet Pelosi and Harrys Henchmen have punted for Congress to have to consider after the November elections in a "lame duck" session are as follows:

  • Doctor fix (expires 11/30/2010).
  • Unemployment extension (expires 11/30/2010).
  • Debt commission report (due 12/1/2010).
  • Tax extenders (expires 12/31/2010).
  • Extension of Bush tax cuts from 2001 and 2003 (expire 12/31/2010).
  • Cap-and-trade/energy bill.

Stay tuned to see what, if any, new offsets these eager, ambitious staffers uncover during the dog days of summer on Capitol Hill.

Elizabeth B. Letchworth is a retired, four-times-elected United States Senate Secretary for the Majority and Minority. She is the founder of

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