Ominous, or, Your Congressional Forecast

A portion of the U.S. Capitol dome. (Detail of photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images, 2013)

This is what we might call not hopeful; other days we might just call it normal. Either way, Andrew Taylor offers the grim look ahead:

Lawmakers return to Washington this week for an abbreviated election-season session in which they will likely do what they do best: the bare minimum.

All Congress must do this month is keep the government from shutting down on Oct. 1 and, with any luck, finally provide money for the fight against the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Republicans controlling Congress promise they won’t stumble now, but the weeks ahead could prove tricky.

The Associated Press article goes on to point out Majority Leader McConnell’s deference to re-election concerns, propose the spending measure is somehow a cinch―“The alternative,” he suggests, “is that Republicans would get the blame for a government shutdown, as they did in 2013”―acknowledge the obvious complication―

But it’s a complicated path for the temporary spending bill. Some House conservatives say the measure should last into next year, when there is a new president and a new Congress, and that would block any chance for a session after the Nov. 8 election. Leaders in both parties feel otherwise―as does President Barack Obama―and a temporary measure until December seems to be the consensus.

―quote the opposition’s gloomy forecast, remind that Congress last split town with a health crisis looming over the nation, recollection of President Obama’s request for Zika money and a reminder of Republican complications―Planned Parenthood?―and then some level-headed speculation that “GOP leaders probably will try to keep the spending bill as free of unrelated additions as possible, especially now”, and then proceeds to discuss pretty much every complication Mr. Taylor can think of, because, let’s face it, this is Congress.

House conservatives versus IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for no particular reason? House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy versus President Obama, Iran, and international diplomacy for no particular reason? The thirteenth paragraph is astounding:

McConnell also wants to advance a popular water projects measure. But the priority is to simply adjourn the chamber to allow embattled incumbents such as Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., to get back home and campaign for re-election against the political headwinds created by Trump.

To the one, it seems an apt guide to what we might expect from Congress; to the other, there is an aura of, Please God make it stop! about the prospect; and, you know, just for good measure, the beeblebrox might simply point out that―

The short-term spending measure is sure to pass. The alternative is that Republicans would get the blame for a government shutdown, as they did in 2013.

―sounds really, really blithe. Or we might simply roll away the stone entirely and say something about how easy it is to be pessimistic when Congress is the object of prognostication.

The sixteen paragraphs describing the chaos that passes for Republican leadership―grandstanding against EpiPen price increases, Hillary Clinton’s email, and even some more Benghazi―really do describe something grim.


Image note: A portion of the U.S. Capitol dome. (Detail of photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images, 2013)

Taylor, Andrew. “Lawmakers likely to do what they do best: the bare minimum”. The Big Story. 4 September 2016.

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