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Congress Far Behind on Regular Business

1:01 PM, Sep 21, 2007 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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Congressional Quarterly looks at the agenda ahead in the House and Senate -- including legislation to prevent a government shutdown:

In the final week of the 2007 fiscal year, the House and Senate face packed agendas in an effort to keep the government funded and extend authorizations for a host of programs beyond Sept. 30.

With none of the 12 fiscal 2008 appropriations bills enacted, both the House and Senate will take up continuing resolutions to extend federal government funding at current levels.

House Democratic leaders said they are mulling over a funding resolution that lasts at least five weeks.

A number of agencies and programs may also need authorization extensions, including the Federal Aviation Administration. The House passed an FAA reauthorization bill (HR 2881) on Sept. 20; however, the Senate may not be able to clear it before Oct. 1.

Democrats roundly criticized Republicans for failing to pass appropriations bills and other must-pass legislation when they ran the House. Last year at this time, current House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer noted that the Congress would likely work just 93 days, and had not enacted any of the appropriations bills required to fund the government.

By my count, the House has worked 111 days so far this year. But it turns out that working more days hasn't enabled them to get more done. With an overriding focus on investigations and Iraq, this Congress has passed none of the 12 appropriations bills required to run the government. It has also failed to pass energy legislation, the FAA reauthorization, the FDA reauthorization, four queued-up trade agreements, and other important measures. (I won't even get into the tax increases, refusal to extend FISA for the long-term, or other bills that the Democratic leadership opposes flat out.)

When House Republicans had to resort to a Continuing Resolution to keep the government open in 2004. Hoyer's reaction was brutal:

"Mr. Speaker, today, our Republican friends are waving a white flag, announcing what has become so obvious to so many - that they have surrendered to their own intransigence; that they cannot get their work done.

"This Continuing Resolution is nothing less than an admission of failure by the House Republican leadership. But it is a fitting capstone to the least productive Session of Congress that I have been a part of since I was elected to this body in 1981...

"Because they have failed to enact the Homeland Security bill, critical funding for the ‘SAFER' program is not available. That means fire departments across the nation will be delayed in their efforts to hire, recruit and retain firefighters.

"Because they have failed to enact the Transportation-Treasury Bill, nearly $1 billion in airport improvement grants is not available. That means airport security fencing and the construction of airport rescue and firefighting stations will be delayed.

"Because they have failed to enact the Commerce-Justice-State bill, $658 million in worldwide security upgrades at U.S. facilities (especially in Kabul, Afghanistan) are not available. Mr. Speaker, the list goes on and on. The Majority's failure to pass appropriations bills on time will delay funding for everything from construction at Veterans Administration facilities, to humanitarian assistance to the victims of genocide in Sudan, to additional funding for food safety inspections here at home.

Now that Hoyer is the Majority Leader--where his chief responsibility is making the trains run on time--will he acknowledge the priorities that haven't been addressed simply because the Democratic majority has let the trains run off the tracks?