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The Week Ahead in Congress

May 16, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

After all the non-serious legislating the House of Representatives accomplished last week — by that I mean passing bills that were designed purely for politics, not affecting policy — they decided to just stay home this week. The House is taking their third week of vacation time in the past five weeks, and when they come back into session again they’ll be there for just one week before going on vacation again.

Meanwhile, the debt ceiling has officially been surpassed. The federal government is now borrowing more money to execute the laws than the amount Congress has allowed it to borrow. The Treasury Department says they have a couple months worth of stalling tactics to make sure we don’t actually default. But if Congress doesn’t get to Washington and figure out a way to pass a debt ceiling increase soon, we risk defaulting on our international financial obligations and destroying our creditworthiness for decades to comes. Remember, the Republican-led House has already voted overwhelmingly in favor of a budget that would increase the debt by $9 trillion over the next decade. Now they just need to stop taking vacations, get to Washington, and pass legislation to make their own budget possible. If Bush were still President, they’d be there in a heartbeat to pass a debt increase.

On the Senate side, Democrats and Republicans remain stymied. After working for 6 weeks recently on a small business jobs bill that was ultimately killed when Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] and Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME] could not reach an agreement on an amendment, They’re hesitant to begin working on any legislation. But, hey, it could be worse. They could be copying the House and spending all their time either on vacation or holding votes that have no purpose other than setting up campaign talking points.

With the House on vacation, consider crashing a campaign fundraising party for the rich and famous. Sen. Jerry Moran [R, KS] $5,000-a-plate dinner to pay off his 2010 campaign debt is unfortunately happening in D.C., but there are some events taking place outside the Beltway. Rep. Cedric Richmond [D, LA-2] is holding an event in New Orleans and Rep. Vern Buchanan [R, FL-13] is hosting a sunset cruise in Sarasota. Of course if you’re less cynical than me and your Rep. is doing the increasingly uncommon thing and holding a town hall meeting to hear from constituents who can’t afford to mingle at a $2,500 dinner cruises, you should consider attending that.

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