Tuesday, September 28, 2010

House Dems: Stuff that Lame Duck! UPDATE: House agenda confirms no WRDA

From The Hill:

The array of bills competing for floor time shows the sense of urgency among Democratic lawmakers to act before the start of the 112th Congress, when Republicans are expected to control more seats in the Senate and House.

But, given the slow pace of the Senate, it also all but guarantees that Democrats will be hard-pressed to pass even a small part of their lame-duck agenda.

The highest-profile item for November and December is the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, passed under President George W. Bush, which expire at year’s end.

Democrats have promised they will not allow tax rates to rise for families making less than $250,000 a year.

Democratic leaders have also prioritized the defense authorization bill, which includes a repeal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bans gays from serving openly in the military.

Democrats and gay-rights activists fear repeal could prove impossible if Republicans control the House or additional Senate seats.

Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the chamber’s second-ranking Democrat, has promised to push for a vote on the DREAM Act, which would give the children of illegal immigrants a chance to earn legal residence.

That bill would have much less chance of passing if Republicans controlled the House.

Democratic leaders also view an extension of unemployment insurance benefits and a freeze in scheduled cuts to doctors’ Medicare reimbursements as must-pass legislation.

Lawmakers could spend much of the lame-duck session haggling over these two expensive proposals, which sucked up weeks of time in the Senate earlier this year.

The so-called “doc freeze” and extension of unemployment benefits are non-starters with Republicans, who will no doubt be energized and run out the clock.

Not likely to see a floor vote: The Water Resources Development Act of 2010.  The traditionally biannual authorizing legislation sets water resource development policy and authorizes flood control, navigation and ecosystem restoration projects in all 50 states.  It’s usually passed in even years, for the most obvious reason:  House and Senate members have the opportunity to earmark funds for home-district and home-state projects that they can take home and campaign on.  But another key aspect of WRDA is its implications on water resource policy and longer range strategies.  WRDA 1986, for example, established cost-sharing rules that put more decision-making power in local and state hands.  WRDA 1998 established rules to speed up the bureaucratic process by which projects are studied and approved.  The legislation is a rare example of good government.

WRDA has also traditionally been a legislative agenda item that enjoys broad bipartisan support, but this has been anything but a Congress of bipartisan spirit and cooperation.  Instead of proceeding with legislation that both parties support, and which really does have tangible, positive effects on the economy, the Democrat leadership in both houses are going to continue to push liberal darlings like meaningless “child nutritition,” the dangerous DREAM Act, and extending unemployment benefits beyond the current (almost) two-year limit.

It’s another reminder why November 2, 2010 is such an important mid-term election day.  Getting rid of this bunch could mean getting government back to serving its people instead of serving the leftwing constituencies and special interests.

UPDATE: Via Jamie Dupree’s blog, here’s the House agenda for the week, and WRDA isn’t on it.


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