Work Ahead?

Congress is getting back in town today after another long vacation. It seems as time goes on each Congress is less productive than its predecessor. The cynical (sometimes including me) often wonder if they are actually capable of productivity. We will discover the answer to that this month. Let’s explore.

Other than abdicating their duties to the Executive Branch and kicking the can down the road our recent Congresses have been many part sizzle and few parts steak; this September that either changes or we are in big trouble. There are several (as of this writing the exact number is unknown) must pass items that Congress will be faced with in September.

First among them is raising the debt ceiling. Although both Parties have used it as a political football in recent years it is a simple proposition. The Treasury’s borrowing limit must be raised so that the Treasury can pay the debts Congress has already incurred.

Also in need of immediate attention is the initial aid package for victims of Hurricane Harvey. Currently the Trump administration is asking for an initial relief package of $7.85 billion. That is only a “down payment” and I expect it to pass both chambers relatively easily with bi-partisan support. I expect several no votes from the House Republicans in the Freedom Caucus (Tea Party). What will be interesting in both chambers is to see Texas Republicans who voted against Sandy aid voting for Harvey aid. This will include Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Blake Farenthold. They both claim they voted against Sandy relief because the bill was two-thirds pork unrelated to Sandy. Independent fact checkers refuted those lies in warp time; of course that hasn’t stopped our “dynamic duo” and their friends from repeating the lie.

In any event I expect both of those measures to pass unless Paul Ryan manages to mess up the process.

Theoretically next is a federal budget to prevent the government from shutting down at the end of the month. All realistic observers do not expect a budget. Keeping the government open will be the function of a continuing resolution (CR) which will probably expire in December. This will be another Nancy (Pelosi) to the rescue situation since I doubt Ryan will be able to keep his caucus in line. I am confident a CR will materialize near the eleventh hour and a government shutdown will be adverted. There will still be plenty of drama and the exact content of the CR is yet to be determined.

Depending on what at this point, (Sunday morning), is a host of unknowns, action on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) could be the fourth critical piece of September legislation. Last Friday rumors swirled around DC that Trump was about to make an announcement as to the fate of the program. On Friday the President himself made various statement about when an announcement would come ranging from later on Friday to Monday. During her (somewhat) daily press briefing Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders stated an announcement would be forthcoming today (Tuesday). Trump could go several routes including one that basically dumps the mess in Congress’ lap.

I found it disingenuous when Ryan called on the President to put DACA into the hands of Congress. Congress has been abdicating its duty on controversial issues for decades now; instead allowing the Executive Branch to make the tough choices only to turn around and issue partisan criticism in the press, on the campaign trail and foremost in donation appeals. While both Parties are guilty of this sin and it pre-dates Ryan, it is even more prevalent under his “leadership”.

With three and possibly four major tasks on Congress’ to do list does anyone actually expect anything of substance to be accomplished on things like tax reform, infrastructure or those sham Congressional investigations of Russiagate? Hey, the bright side is we may finally get some work out of the 535 people we pay a minimum of $174,000 a year.

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