Congress returns – yawn

8 Jul

dysfunctional-congress-sizedCongress returns today with many pressing issues and little guarantee that any of them will be dealt with.

Even in some of the worst years of, a deadline used to mean something to Congress. Until 2013.

Drop-dead dates have come and gone this year, causing real-world consequences.

On January 1st, tax rates went up not only for rich folks, but also for about every worker when lawmakers looked the other way and let a payroll tax cut expire.

On March 1st, after members from both parties decided that automatic, across-the-board spending cuts would never happen, they happened anyway because of inaction.

At this time two years ago, Congress had passed 23 laws on the way toward the lowest total since those numbers began being tracked in 1948.

This year, 15 have been passed so far.

The current Congress is on pace to clear fewer bills than any other Congress.

Since the 113th Congress convened in January, the Senate has been in session just 80 days and the House 84 days.

The 113th Congress is on track to be even less productive than the historic 112th Congress.

Here’s the problem: a Republican House unwilling and unable to engage in the normal process of negotiation and compromise with the president, and their continued willingness to live with a destructive sequester.

Left undone have been major pieces of legislation including a budget agreement and a farm and food-aid policy bill.

Lawmakers missed a July 1 deadline to prevent subsidized Stafford student loans from doubling to 6.8 percent. While the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration overhaul bill and farm legislation, the House hasn’t moved forward on either issue.

So far, the House and Senate have had eight complete weeks away from Washington, though the Congressional Record documents brief sessions – one lasted just three minutes – when legislative housekeeping was done in an all-but-empty chamber on a few of those days.

Most weeks, the first votes are scheduled at 5:30 pm or 6:30 pm on Monday, and lawmakers are usually out the door by Thursday evening.

It’s far from a typical work schedule.

No wonder nothing gets done.

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