Around the State
Time is of the essence when it comes to our nation’s financial health, but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at the House and Senate schedule this week.
The House of Representatives will be in recess this week after passing two of the 12 appropriations bills. This feat of debating and amending the appropriations bills was completely bypassed by the Pelosi/Reid Democratic regime of the last Congress.
The second session of the 111th Congress actually made history last year, but not in a good way -- by being the first and only Congress to fail to pass a single appropriations bill in the regular session of Congress. This "accomplishment" dates back to when Congress created the appropriations process, in 1867.
Bravo to the current House of Representatives for wanting to get back to the “regular order” of things and allowing the two appropriations bills to be considered under an open rule. This, too, deserves an at-a-boy, since open rules for appropriations bills -- which means any member of Congress is permitted to offer an amendment assuming it meets certain filing deadlines and other technical requirements -- haven’t been permitted in over five years.
The House also voted on a House resolution making a strong statement to the administration about the use of troops in Libya and asking for various reports to Congress on the justification for it. This resolution passed by a vote of 268-145.
Finally, the House began last week after the Memorial Day holiday by failing to pass a simple extension of our public debt. The speaker orchestrated this vote, in part at the request of Rep. Peter Welch, I-Vt. The congressman delivered a letter to the speaker with more than 100 signatures on it asking the speaker to schedule a clean vote on the debt-limit increase.
The speaker also scheduled the vote to make the point that the House of Representatives does not have the votes needed to pass a clean debt-limit extension without any spending cuts or reforms to our government’s entitlement programs. The clean debt-limit resolution failed by a vote of 97-318.
Over on the Senate side of the Capitol, the Senate was in recess last week. The senators return this Monday, June 6, and at 5:30 p.m. they will conduct a cloture vote on the nomination of Donald B. Verrilli Jr. to be solicitor general of the United States. Later in the week the Senate is expected to consider and conduct a roll call vote on the swipe fees issue.
This will come up in the Senate in the form of a vote in relation to the Tester bill, S. 575, whereby the Democratic senator from Montana (Jon Tester) is proposing that the upcoming regulations required in the Dodd-Frank bill of last year be postponed. These regulations are due out any day and will require banks to reduce their interchange or swipe fees that they are permitted to charge for each credit card transaction. The regs will drop the fees from 44 cents to 12 cents per transaction. This banker-vs.-retailer conflict has been ongoing since the adoption of the Dodd-Frank bill of last summer.
The Senate majority leader also announced that the Senate will have two no-vote days in June. They are June 13 and June 27. This is noteworthy because, as the title reflects, time is of the essence for the Congress to resolve their differences between the two bodies and the president when it comes to increasing our national debt.
The House and the Senate are in session for the same session days, only 21 days between now and the drop-dead time that our Treasury secretary says our nation’s debt must be increased. That drop-dead date is Aug. 2. On June 3, the speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, began pleading with the president to get engaged in the process of negotiating a way to get our debt limit increased, because, as he put it, "time is running out." The speaker said: "It is time to get serious about cutting spending and deal with America’s ailing economy."
Stay tuned to see if the White House and the Democrats in Congress heed Speaker John Boehner’s warning ...
Elizabeth B. Letchworth is a retired, elected United States Senate secretary for the majority and minority. Currently she is a senior legislative adviser for Covington & Burling, LLC and is the founder of Gradegov.com