Ideally, members of Congress would have approved a version of the president’s jobs act, adding a helpful jolt to the struggling economy. They would have put together a comprehensive and balanced plan to corral huge federal budget deficits for the longer term. Then, members could have gone home to campaign with real accomplishments to tout, bipartisan in their form and responsive to leading problems.
Instead, Congress bolted at the end of last week with little to show. As Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times noted, this session has passed roughly one-fifth the legislation approved by the “do-nothing” Congress ridiculed by Harry Truman in the 1948 presidential race. Predictably enough, lawmakers left town amid the familiar partisan acrimony, driven more than anything by Republican obstruction, that has resulted in such an unproductive two years on Capitol Hill.
The House and Senate did manage to approve a stopgap spending measure, keeping the federal government operating through March of next year. Legislation to allow the financially beleaguered Postal Service to move forward with sweeping changes to its operation? The Senate acted in late April. The House has failed to get the work done, let alone allow for getting started on bridging the likely differences between the two versions.
Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other high-technology companies rightly have pushed for legislation that would provide permanent resident visas for foreigners who graduate from American universities with advanced degrees in science, math and related fields. That effort, too, collapsed as Democrats and Republicans wrangled, a reminder that the country still lacks necessary improvements in its immigration system.
The emerging wind energy industry faces expiration of a crucial tax credit at the end of the year. Unfortunately, Congress has let that item slip, inviting harmful uncertainty and even layoffs.
A new, five-year farm bill should have been relatively easy, if only because of the urgency expressed in battered farm states. A sound compromise would address the substantial need yet also pare back excessive subsidies. So far, that has proved beyond the reach of lawmakers.
The Senate did vote on a reckless measure proposed by Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, to end foreign aid to Libya, Egypt and Pakistan. It won 10 votes. Senate Democrats took care of one of their own, Jon Tester of Montana in a tough re-election fight, positioning a bill to increase access for recreational hunting and fishing.
Now lawmakers are back home. Northeast Ohioans need not look far to see how dysfunctional Congress has become. Betty Sutton and Jim Renacci, two incumbents vying in the new 16th U.S. House District, have yet to agree on something that would serve voters: a series of debates.