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Washington Week

September 17, 2010 - 6:00pm

Congress came back to D.C. this week from its August recess and should have been ready to strap on their seat belts and get to work doing the legislation that they failed to do all year long.

This list includes adopting a budget resolution, passing the 12 money bills that when added together fully fund our federal government, and passing our national defense and military preparedness authorization bill.

After all, the Congress is spending out of control, the government coffers are growing by leaps and bounds, and our brave men and women of the military are fighting and dying in two wars. Instead, they will blow off doing a budget, they will package together the 12 appropriations bills and pass them as one bill with little or no debate, and the Defense authorization bill is being used by the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as his own personal campaign puppet.

The Senate passed the small-business lending bill on Thursday afternoon after Sens. Voinovich and George LeMieux, both Republicans, crossed the aisle and helped the Democrats break a filibuster. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for their consideration next week. In the meantime, the Senate majority leader teed up the Defense authorization bill before they went out for the week.

When they return next week after a brief recess for Yom Kippur, the Senate will conduct a procedural vote that requires 60 affirmative votes to move the Defense bill to the floor for the debate. The Senate majority leader responded this way when asked by Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.) about the status of the Defense bill: "We're not going to be able to complete this bill before we go home.

But why wouldn't the majority leader push the Senate to complete this vital bill before the elections? The answer is that the bill will be used for political messaging by the Democrats in Congress. Plans by the Democrats to play with this bill include offering the DREAM act. This is the immigration initative that provides a pathway to legal residency for kids of illegal immigrants, if these children go to college or spend two years serving in our armed forces.

Time to offer and debate important, defense-related amendments to this bill on the floor is being limited or cut off, so that the majority leader can push through highly political legislation that has little or nothing to do with national defense -- legislation that would never be referred to the Armed Services Committee if it were introduced independently, McCain said. This is turning legislation related to our national defense and military preparedness into a vehicle to force a partisan agenda through the Senate.

If you wonder what lies in store for our military programs next week in the Senate, stay tuned to see what the Senate does and if the House will play political puppetry with the small-business lending bill. They could easily use the small-business lending bill sitting in their chamber as a vehicle for a vote on tax increases for our 750,000 small-business owners. This is commonly known by the Democrats in Congress and POTUS (president of the United States) as tax increases for the rich. Maybe it's the American electorate that needs to strap on our seat belts.

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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