The Washington Post announced what we already knew. That the lame duck sessions of Congress (one already past, one this week) will not accomplish much. So what, you say? They hadn’t accomplished much for the last year, why should we care now?
Jonathan Weisman reports:
Congress will convene on Tuesday for what some fear will be the lamest of lame-duck sessions, and GOP leaders have decided to take a minimalist approach before turning over the reins of power to the Democrats. Rather than a final surge of legislative activity, Congress will probably wrap up things after a single, short week of work. They have even decided to punt decisions on annual government spending measures to the Democrats next year.
In fact this has relevance both for the present and the future. Most of the Federal Agencies are without their FY2007 budgets, including NIH, CDC, FDA, on down the list. It is difficult to plan spending, award grants and contracts, and to know how deep the cuts are finally going to be when the budgets get passed. Because the budgets will ultimately be signed into law, perhaps as some giant omnibus piece of legislation.
Why didn’t Congress do this very important bit of work before the elections? It doesn’t take a [choose your favorite scientific metaphor: rocket scientist, nuclear physicist, psychiatrist?] to predict that the outgoing Congress, whether it changed hands or not, would not want to do any work between November and January.
More from the article:
Much of the problem is as prosaic as office space, GOP aides said. Lawmakers were forced to vacate their offices on Friday, and few of them want to hang around Washington with no place to sit. Retiring House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) got angry during a meeting of committee chairmen, demanding to know how he was supposed to complete work on the business tax extension bill without an office, according to one GOP aide present in the meeting.
And attendance is expected to be light. House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.) may be crucial to passage of the offshore-oil-drilling bill, since he had led the charge to broaden the Senate’s approach. But he may not have his heart in it, GOP leadership aides conceded. He was defeated on Nov. 7.
Besides, with committee assignments, chairmanships and ranking Republican posts up for grabs next week, there will be campaigns to run, presentations to make and alliances to form. Legislating may be far down the list of priorities.
Congressional leaders and the rank and file knew that no one would be motivated to work after the election, especially since there was a chance that the House and maybe the Senate would switch control. It is beyond irresponsible that they postponed the real work of Congress (allocated the Federal budget) with this knowledge in hand. They are not surprised, and we should not be surprised either.
So while Federal employees, including the science and health agencies (think environment, energy, biomedical research, drug safety, food safety) are working on shoe-string budgets trying to plan for a year that is already in it’s 3rd month, those in Congress who knew months ago that no one would be motivated to work in December, are doing exactly what they knew would happen: nothing.
I hope the next leadership of the House and Senate (who are now left to close out the budget process for FY2007, while simultaneously starting the next round of budgeting and appropriations for FY 2008) are able to clean up the mess and focus on the future. Here’s hoping!
PotomacFeverish is a Washington, DC based scientist