Congress sluggish as midterms loom

Tom Sileo Contributor
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With the return of Congress from more than a monthlong recess, the pace in the legislative mills ranges somewhere between sluggish and stalled.

This week’s House workload consists of 27 largely inconsequential “suspension” bills and a rural energy proposal. For the four-week fall session, the House will be locked into the Tuesday afternoon-to-Thursday evening schedule for which they once lampooned Republican control of Capitol Hill.

But does the lack of any real fall movement on Capitol Hill matter at this point in the election cycle?

Democrats dismiss Republican attacks on their recent scant legislative agenda. “If this election is fought over what we have accomplished versus the Republicans’ obstruction, we will be in pretty good shape,” said Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.).

Republicans have seized on the limited performance in the past couple months and have criticized Democrats for failing to do their job during a weak economy and public antipathy toward Washington.

“Congress did not even write a budget for the coming fiscal year — they just canceled it altogether. … Instead of making tough choices, Congress ends up essentially rubberstamping a haphazard collection of ‘must do’ tax policies from one year to the next,” House Minority Leader John Boehner said last month in Cleveland in a speech about the economy.

Indeed, the to-do list for Democrats is filled with bills that would be “must pass” most years.

Appropriations bills and expiring tax provisions have been deferred for months with possible action in a lame-duck session. Following the hectic pace that culminated in enactment of health reform in March, long-sought initiatives of Democratic allies — such as labor, education and immigration bills — have been sidelined, because of factors ranging from internal party splits to Senate gridlock.

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