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Washington Week

September 26, 2010 - 6:00pm

Members of Congress may be heading home by weeks end to start the final campaign for the fight of their political life.

Both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have been back in session for a couple of weeks but very little has been happening legislatively.

The congressional GOP unveiled its "Pledge to America" this past week. Many political pundits are poring over the 48-page document, which seeks to end the destructive government policies and restore the fundamental idea that free people should govern themselves.This document hopes to be the basis for the GOP governing during the next Congress, assuming they take control of at least one house of Congress.

Meanwhile, the small-business lending bill was passed by the House last week and will be signed into law by the president by early this week. Congress remaining legislative task that must be completed before members can head home for their Nov. 2 elections is to fully fund our federal government.This constitutional responsibility somehow slipped off their legislative agenda for this entire year.

Since the funding of our federal government expires for every agency, every department and policy on Thursday, Sept. 30, quick work is needed. These money bills or appropriations funding bills usually are passed in the form of 12 separate bills. When these 12 bills are married together, they make up the full funding of our federal government for a full year.

However, the White House is complicating this work by insisting on very expensive add-ons. These riders deal with health-care reform and financial regulatory reform. The price tag for these add-ons is said to be $20 billion. In the name of out-of-control spending and cutting the size of government, the congressional GOP is objecting strenuously to these add-ons.

A test vote to see if the White House will be able to hijack the appropriations bill to spend this extra $20 billion will occur in the Senate Tuesday afternoon. The question is whether the Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., can muster 60 votes to break a GOP filibuster on the State Department and Foreign Operations appropriations bill. This is the base bill that will contain the 12 spending bills and potentially carry the White Houses $20 billion additional spending.

The Senate is also in the spotlight this week not only for being the producer of the continuing resolution, aka the funding of our federal government, but because senators will conduct another message vote. This message vote is aimed at helping Democrats up for re-election to stimulate their base and encourage their supporters to vote this Nov. 2. These message votes dominated last weeks Senate session.

The other vote scheduled for Tuesday in the Senate is a message vote on an anti-outsourcing bill. This bill seeks to give payroll tax breaks, end business deductions for moving jobs overseas and has a cost of $720 million over 10 years. The Senate GOP, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, oppose the bill. They say the bill will reduce the ability of U.S. companies to compete with foreign companies. Therefore, there is a strong possibility that this vote will fail in the Senate Tuesday.

The Tuesday vote on the spending bill will be the first test of the GOP to stand firm on its "Pledge to America" and defeat the White Houses efforts to add $20 billion to the continuing resolution.Stay tuned to see if the White House is successful or if the GOP is successful in demonstrating that they are serious about controlling spending and cutting the size of government. This Tuesday could prove to be a crystal ball for the American people to be able to view what the new Congress of 2011 will stand up and become.

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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