Opinion

Buckle up, Congress is back in session

Elizabeth Letchworth Former U.S. Senate Secretary

When members of Congress returned to DC this week from their August recess, they should have been ready to strap on their seat belts and get to work passing the legislation that they failed to pass all year long. Their to-do list includes adopting a budget resolution, passing 12 appropriations bills that when added together fully fund our federal government, and passing a military preparedness authorization bill. After all, Congress’ spending is out of control, the government coffers are growing by leap and bounds, and our brave military men and women are fighting and dying in two wars. Instead, members of Congress 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 Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) as his own personal campaign puppet.

The Senate passed the small business lending bill on Thursday afternoon after Senators Voinovich and LeMieux, both Republicans, crossed the aisle and helped the Democrats break a filibuster. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives, which will consider it next week. In the meantime, the Senate majority leader teed up the defense authorization bill.

When it returns next week from a brief recess for Yom Kippur, the Senate will conduct a procedural vote that requires 60 affirmatives votes to move the defense bill to the floor for debate. The Senate majority leader responded this way when asked by Senator McCain (R-AZ) 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 pass this vital bill before the elections? The answer is that the bill will be used for political messaging by the Democrats in Congress. Some Democrats want to include the DREAM Act in the bill. This is the immigration imitative that would provide a pathway to legal residency for the children 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 it 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 the president as tax increases for the rich. Maybe it’s the American electorate that needs to strap on our seat belts.

Elizabeth Letchworth is the Owner-Founder of GradeGov.com, four times elected United State Senate Secretary for the Majority/Minority, U. S. Senate-retired, presently senior legislative advisor at Covington & Burling, LLC.