While much focus around Congress’ return has been around the “fiscal cliff” and Benghazi, Congress faces a whole host of unfinished business.
The farm bill, which sets agriculture policy and funds the food stamp program, expired Sept. 30. Its expiration hit farmers immediately, especially dairy farmers who have not received their supplemental payments. If Congress doesn’t act by January 1, the cost of milk is expected to skyrocket and dairy farmers would have to comply with decades-old regulations that don’t conform to the modern industry. As for crop farmers, they have been in limbo, unsure of what sort of subsidies and priorities Congress will set for next year. The Senate passed a bill but the House has not. Analysts say a one-year extension is possible during the lame duck session but a full-fledged five-year reauthorization is unlikely.
The U.S. Postal Service is another area in need of Congress’ attention. The broke quasi-government agency is not government funded but lacks autonomy to make much needed changes in service and pension payments as it’s constrained by the heavy hand of Congress. The service has been unable to meet $1.1 billion in payments for future retirees’ pensions and is asking Congress to act. The Senate passed a bill but the House has yet to act over wrangling over the high cost of the food stamp program.
Congress also faces deadlines to extend the post-9/11 surveillance bill, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, funding for the intelligence community and a bill to authorize defense spending and programs.
It’s the earliest pre-election exit since the sixties.
The most partisan, least productive Congress in memory has skipped out of Washington so lawmakers can make their case for voters to re-elect them.
The Senate closed the Capitol not long after sending President Barak Obama a spending bill that will make sure the government won’t shut down Oct. 1, the start of the new budget year. The measure passed early Saturday by a 62-30 vote.
Left behind for a postelection session is a pile of unfinished business on the budget and taxes, farm policy and legislation to save the Postal Service from insolvency.
The GOP-controlled House beat its retreat Friday morning after taking one last, futile slap at Obama by passing a bill called the “Stop the War on Coal Act.” The measure, dead on arrival in the Senate, was aimed at boosting the coal industry in its fight against new environmental regulations while hurting Obama’s political prospects in coal states such as Ohio and Virginia.
The Democratic-controlled Senate’s middle-of-the-night session came after a spitting match between Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Republicans over Reid’s insistence on advancing legislation by Sen. Jon Tester of Montana to boost access to public lands for hunting and fishing.
More on the Coal giveaway at Think Progress