Washington Update - September 23, 2012
Vianovo | Sep 23, 2012
The least productive, most polarized, lowest rated Congress in generations departed Washington Saturday morning to return the week after the general election.
After midnight, the Senate cleared the continuing resolution for President Barack Obama's signature, keeping government operating at current spending rates through March 27, 2013. Senators also approved a package of executive and judicial nominations. Earlier in the week, both chambers voted on political message measures: Representatives advanced a bill to end the "war on coal" and Senators bottled up President Obama's Veterans Jobs Corps proposal.
Top agenda items left for the post-election Lame Duck session include a farm bill, the defense authorization, Postal Service reforms and Violence Against Women Act renewal.
Congress hit the exits without any effort to avert the fiscal cliff budget chaos that takes effect January 1, when the Bush and Obama tax cuts expire, and January 3, the effective date of $109 billion in automatic spending cuts
The current election outlook favors a status quo result – with Republicans retaining their House majority, Democrats continuing to control the Senate and President Obama winning reelection. Other scenarios involving a Republican Senate majority or the election of Mitt Romney would likely lead to postponing fiscal decisions to next year.
While a long-term grand bargain is unlikely during the Lame Duck session, a status quo result could lead to President Obama and Speaker John Boehner, having learned from their 2011 debt limit negotiations, working a modest delay in the fiscal cliff, building confidence for a 2013 deal that breaks partisan boundaries on revenue and entitlement spending.
Absentee and early voting began this weekend in half the states, narrowing the window during which Romney can change the campaign's trajectory. His remarks about not caring for the 47 percent of Americans dependent on government prevented his campaign from altering the curve last week.