Jewish World Review Sept. 6, 2011 / 7 Elul, 5771
Congress returns, tanned, rested and testy
By Dale McFeatters
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Congress returns to Washington this week after a thoroughly undeserved one-month vacation to find their work right where they left it -- far from finished.
The lawmakers say they had to break to talk to their constituents and gauge the mood of the country. They didn't have to leave Washington to find that out. The voters are depressed and anxious thanks in part to congressional stunts like a totally unnecessary fight over raising the national debt ceiling that resulted in a first-ever dent to the national credit rating.
Congress fouls up one of its mandatory duties every year so it's almost not worth mentioning, but every year since 1995 the lawmakers have failed to finish the 12 appropriations bill that fund the government for the next year by the Oct. 1 deadline. The Senate has passed only one. Sometimes the lawmakers never get around to it, resorting instead to a sloppy and expensive process of passing temporary measures. Often the whole mess gets left to the next Congress to take care of.
The number one talking point will be jobs. The emphasis here is on "talking." The Republicans refuse to spend any money on hiring. Their centerpiece is a bill to prevent the National Labor Relations Board from restricting when employers can locate new plants. But this bill, if it passes, does not create jobs. It only relocates them.
On Thursday, President Barack Obama is to lay out his newest jobs agenda; it should be big, bold and visionary. He could put all 14 million unemployed Americans back to work tomorrow and congressional Republicans would still say no rather than hand him a victory in advance of the 2012 election.
There are three free trade agreements, with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that might actually create some jobs that have been hanging around for years but opponents always come up with an objection, usually involving aid to U.S. workers who lose their jobs because of the pacts. This year, they might actually pass but that's been said before.
One fight to watch will be the reauthorization of the surface transportation bill that comes up for renewal every five to six years. This one has been waiting to be renewed since 2009 and has been extended seven times. If the bill expires at the end of the month, billions in road, bridge and mass transit projects will be idled along with their workers and the government will be unable to collect the 18.4-cent a gallon gas tax.
House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., says he'll agree to one more extension, a short one, but he and the Senate are far apart of the cost and duration of the new bill.
The most recent of the short-term extensions the FAA has been operating under since 2007 expires Sept. 16 meaning a halt to airport construction, tens of thousands of layoffs and hundreds of millions of dollars in uncollected airline ticket taxes.
If a bipartisan super committee cannot agree on $1.2 trillion in budget cuts, those cuts go into effect automatically and across the board in 2013. When the voters get a look at the impact of those cuts, they'll be even more depressed and anxious -- and angry, really angry.
Meanwhile, Belgium has now gone more than 450 days without a parliamentary government and seems to be getting along quite nicely. Congress take note.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Comment by clicking here.
• 09/05/11 Space nations must clean up after themselves
• 09/02/11 Osama bin Laden died a failure and he knew it
• 09/01/11 Time to retire political pie in the face
• 08/31/11 Labor Day celebrates what, exactly?
• 08/30/11 These arrestees really are framed
• 08/25/11 When in an earthquake, block traffic
• 08/23/11 A case for discretion in deportation arrests
• 08/22/11 Tough times or not, parents shell out for school
• 08/18/11 Being unpleasant for fun, profit, promotion
• 08/17/11 Time to prepare for the end game in Libya
• 08/16/11: Super Committee starts facing reality
• 08/15/11: World's fastest plane disappears even faster
• 08/12/11: British cops track rioters through security cameras
• 08/11/11: Relax. There is no Death Star
• 08/10/11: House pages run final errands
• 08/09/11: U.S. treading water on job creation
• 08/08/11: Uncle Sam, the world's permanent guest
• 08/05/11: Most 9/11 victims not on federal death records
• 08/04/11: Russian PM calls U.S. a parasite. He should be so lucky
• 08/03/11: Congress goes from one bind to another
• 08/02/11: D.B. Cooper may no longer be a mystery
• 08/01/11: Libya's latest weapon against NATO --- lawsuits
• 07/29/11: He'll always be known as Hot Wheels Handler
• 07/25/11: Recruiting children to save a dying town
• 07/22/11: Bachmann's admirable medical candor
• 07/12/11: Social Security's grave mistakes
• 07/08/11: Debt crisis need not be constitutional crisis
• 07/07/11: Startups entice new talent with kickball, treehouses
• 07/05/11: Stranded tourists get rare treat
• 06/30/11: The dollar Americans refuse to spend
• 06/27/11: The hangman doesn't cometh
© 2011, SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE