From American Progress:
The Dump and Run Congress
Next week, the 109th Congress returns for a final lame-duck session. With the election over, lawmakers "don't seem inclined to do any work." "In a blend of pique and laziness," members of the House and Senate "intend to show up and pass a continuing resolution to keep the government running at a basic level for a few more weeks." They plan to "dump everything else onto" the 110th Congress and leave Washington "one week earlier than previously anticipated." The current leadership is "preparing to walk away from their most basic constitutional responsibility - passing a budget," to allow themselves to "run out early." After being dumped by the American people, the 109th Congress is now dumping its remaining responsibilities.
"Conservative congressional leaders are expected to punt the issue of completing spending bills to next year's Congress rather than take the time to piece together the legislation, potentially the final act of the Do-Nothing Congress." The leadership has "decided to punt their annual spending bills until next year," a step that will push "almost a half-trillion dollars of spending bills" on incoming lawmakers. The move would leave the new Congress "with the responsibility of passing the nine remaining spending bills, totaling almost $500 billion for government programs ranging from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to the national parks." Passing the remaining bills should not be this difficult. "In 1994," GovExec.com reports, "when Republicans swept back to power in the House after four decades, there was no spending mess to clean up - all appropriations bills had been enacted by the Democrats before the end of the fiscal year." Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has said he will try to accomplish "what is feasible and achievable," but the delay is a calculated move. "I know a lot of folks just as soon not to see [the spending bills] done this year" to let the next Congress "struggle here next year," Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) said.
In place of the spending bills, the departing Congress is "reported to be planning nothing more than a cut-and-paste, short-term continuing resolution," or CR. The stop-gap spending bill would be the "third such measure" to pass this year and would extend government operations through February 15, "one week after President Bush submits his budget for the next fiscal year." A continuing resolution could lead to "budget nightmares" for federal agencies. "Under the terms of the CR," National Journal reports, "every agency would be funded at the lower of the House or Senate-passed level or last year's enacted budget, which over the course of the year would trim up to $7 billion from available FY07 funds." "The problems with a CR can start becoming acute even well before the end of the fiscal year." The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for example, could see a 15 percent cut from its FY06 budget, which would lead to nearly 400 full-time employee layoffs. "The Social Security Administration has told congressional staff it might have to furlough every employee," and sources at the Housing and Urban Development Department say cuts could mean "literally thousands of people would be out in the street." Self-described fiscal conservatives such as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) have said they will "block all spending bills from advancing" to pass the continuing resolution. Others are not pleased. House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) admitted the situation was "an absolute disaster and a catastrophe" compared to last year. "Not such a great ending," Lewis said.
A FINAL PUSH FROM THE RIGHT:
The right-wing is using its final week in power to push through an agenda meant to be a "last bid for loyalty" to their base. One bill conservatives will push, the "Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act," "defines a 20-week-old fetus as a 'pain-capable unborn child.'" The 20-week mark is "a highly controversial threshold among scientists." The bill mandates that abortion providers "inform the mothers that evidence exists that the procedure would cause pain to the child and offer the mothers anesthesia for the baby." The legislation is a "grotesque combination of pseudoscience, propaganda," and "big government." Last year, the Journal of the American Medical Association found that "based on the evidence," "discussions of fetal pain for abortions performed before the end of the second trimester should not be mandatory."
TRYING TO 'GUM UP' THE AGENDA:
The incoming congressional leadership has promised "longer hours, five-day work weeks and extended stretches without a recess," including an "unusually long seven-week session" in the Senate. "The plan is," a spokesman for incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said, "we're going to work more hours, and hold Monday and Friday votes." Reid has promised to put in "some hours here that haven't been put in in a long time." The House will also "schedule longer work weeks." But the "bulging workload" left behind by the 109th Congress may force the 110th Congress to "consume time and energy" it would otherwise spend on "raising the minimum wage, negotiating lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries, cutting interest rates on college loans and repealing some tax breaks for oil companies." Conservatives hope the "unfinished budget work" will "gum up" the January agenda.