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The Congressional Scene

This year, despite the rhetoric, it appears that both Chambers of Congress are unlikely to do much of the Nation’s business over the next several months.  As happens every two years, all 435 members of the House are up for reelection.  Every six years, one-third of the Senators (about 33) must run for reelection.  This year, the stars have aligned to add in a fairly contentions Presidential election.  As a result, every Democrat and every Republican is extremely concerned about what will happen in November.  This concern may be understandable, but it leaves the nation waiting, yet again, to know whether our Federal government will be operational come September 30th, the end of the Federal fiscal year.

“But it’s early June”, you say, “how could they not move forward on funding legislation?”  After all, the end of the fiscal year is four months away.  That should be enough time if they concentrate and work efficiently.  Well, take a look at the legislative schedule for the available days when both the House and Senate are in session at the same time in June (12 legislative days) and July (8 legislative days).

Both Chambers recess by July 15th to attend their respective party’s national convention followed by the traditional August recess and the September Labor Day holiday period.  At present, the House is expected to be in session about 12-14 days in September and not at all for the month of October through the middle (post-Election Day) of November.  The Senate has a few more September “in session” days than the House and three days just before the November election.  This leaves very little time for each chamber to consider and pass legislation for all 12 appropriations measures, meet in conference to resolve differences, pass the respective compromise legislation, and send it forward for the President’s signature.

A focus on the political process rather than the operational also means that most Federal agencies, once again, will be likely “managed” by a Continuing Resolution that only extends current funding levels for a limited period of time and, ultimately, by some sort of Omnibus bill that cobbles together an odd funding package of selective project increases and decreases.  This is not an optimistic approach to good government.