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10 Things to Watch in Congress in 2014

If the first session of the 113th Congress was the least productive in the nation’s history, what's in store for part two?

by
Bill Straub

Bio

January 3, 2014 - 11:08 pm
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WASHINGTON – Searching for legislation likely to attract consideration during the second session of the 113th Congress is like trying to find water in the Sahara – you know there’s an oasis out there somewhere but anything you think you see is likely just a mirage.

The first session of the 113th Congress generally is viewed as the least productive in the nation’s history. Lawmakers passed 65 bills – the lowest number since 1947, the year such statistics were first kept. The so-called “do-nothing” 80th Congress of 1947-48, which President Harry Truman campaigned against, produced 906 bills over a two-year period. The previous Congress, the 112th, passed 81 bills in its first year.

Many small-government Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner, of Ohio, insist the lack of activity isn’t a bad thing. Boehner, in fact, said it’s more important that the voting public take heed of the legislation that didn’t pass.

“We should not be judged on how many new laws we create,” he said at one point in 2013. “We ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal.”

But that same public is fairly well convinced the 113th Congress has been awful. A CNN/ORC International poll released last week found that two-thirds of those surveyed considered the 113th to be, thus far, the worst ever. Almost 75 percent characterized it as a “do-nothing” Congress.

It’s hard to imagine how the second session will turn out to be much better than the first. The first session of a Congress is usually the most productive. In this instance the partisan divide remains wider than the sky. Complicating matters is the November election – many lawmakers will be looking to avoid controversial votes.

Regardless, the 113th Congress is going to have to pass – or at least consider — something to justify its existence. Here are 10 quick possibilities.

THE FARM BILL – Lawmakers wrangled over this for months during the first session and the issue should come to a head sometime early on. It’s considered a must for farm-state representatives since it provides subsidies for agricultural interests – there are fears that the price of milk could reach $7 or more per gallon if it’s not quickly addressed.

The problem is food stamps, a major provision in the bill. The House wants to slash the program by $39 billion. The Senate, controlled by Democrats, is willing to accept a modest $4 billion cut. The question will have to be resolved in conference.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS – Democrats had hoped to gain an extension of emergency benefits to the nation’s unemployed as part of the budget deal that passed both chambers before the Christmas recess. But Republicans, as represented by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee, balked and the provision was left out of the deal.

As a result, about 1.3 million saw their unemployment insurance expire at the end of 2013, at a time when more than 7 percent of the nation’s workforce remains jobless. Democrats are unlikely to let the issue die and intend to use it to paint an ugly picture of the GOP in the fall elections. Boehner said he’s willing to consider an extension but the money for it will have to come from existing programs. Legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate to extend the benefit at an estimated cost of $25 billion.

DEBT CEILING – Here we go again. Opposing sides are once again rushing toward a showdown over raising the nation’s debt ceiling, which essentially authorizes the Treasury to borrow the funds necessary to pay the nation’s bills.

Republicans are reluctant to raise the ceiling, arguing that it leads to more government spending and, therefore, more debt, forcing the ceiling to be raised yet again in the near future. Democrats maintain that without a necessary adjustment the U.S. will default on its obligations, sending world markets swirling into chaos. The hike doesn’t increase spending, it simply allows the nation’s bills to be paid.

The last face-off didn’t place the GOP in a good light. Boehner sought fiscal concessions from President Obama in return for raising the ceiling – starting with repeal of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. The White House balked, insisting that lawmakers deliver a clean bill. Republicans finally acquiesced.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has informed Congress that the U.S. is likely to hit the debt ceiling once again sometime in late February or early March, igniting a firestorm once again. Ryan maintains Republicans expect to receive something in return – like approval of the Keystone XL pipeline pumping oil to the Gulf Coast from Canada.

KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE – As long as we’re on the subject, Republicans likely will try to force the administration to approve pipeline construction. Obama has been slow-walking the 1,661-mile, $7 billion project, voicing serious concerns about feared environmental consequences. Republicans counter the project will create an estimated 20,000 direct jobs – opponents claim the total is significantly less — and carry nearly a million additional barrels per day of secure Canadian oil supplies to U.S. refineries, from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, to an area near the Texas Gulf Coast.

The House has voted at least seven times to proceed with construction – often with significant Democratic support. The issue has died in the Senate but support seems to be growing, perhaps initiating another effort.

IMMIGRATION – The issue is being watched because, among other things, it may prove to be Waterloo for the presidential hopes of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). His support for a Senate measure has drawn disdain from Tea Party conservatives, perhaps leaving him in the station after the train takes off.

The Senate passed a highly publicized, sweeping measure last June that, among other things, provided the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants with a path to citizenship. House Republicans balked and rejected the concept of one major bill. Instead, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is creating immigration legislation that will be broken into several component parts, each to be voted on individually.

Boehner has vowed to push the House version of immigration reform but it’s likely that whatever emerges will be a likeness to the Senate bill, meaning the lower chamber is unlikely to approve a path to citizenship. A difficult conference committee is in the offing.

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Top Rated Comments   
It's NOT immigration. Immigration is already legal. Stop lying. It's AMNESTY, and we don't want it in any way shape or form. Period. And, they not "undocumented immigrants" they are ILLEGAL ALIENS. Invaders. Criminals. Put up a 15 foot high hardened steel fence that stretches from Brownsville to San Diego, then round them up and ship 'em home! THAT would be real "immigration reform".
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
If Democrats held the House and Republicans the Senate...all the bills written in the House would be championed as hardworking and courageous...and Harry Reid's exact same tactics would be savaged as imperial, tyrannical and illegal.

The ONLY reason that people do not rage...is because they are fed a steady diet of lies, distortions, indoctrination and propaganda.

This same tactic gets some who proclaim to be free market proponents to aid and abet those who seek to destroy it, by railing against "big business" or a "do nothing House".

The House is fighting a corrupt Senate, a communist cabal in the executive branch, an emasculated judicial branch, and a propagandized information stream.

It is holding this nation together against those odds...barely.

Detroit has fallen. The DOJ has fallen. New York is in enemy hands. The IRS has fallen. The EPA has fallen. The Dept of Energy has fallen. The State Dept. has fallen. The NSA has fallen. The HHS has fallen.

Checks and balances are being eroded. Executive fiat, often nakedly illegal, bypasses Congress.

The nuclear option has been imposed on the Senate and gifted to Iran.

In light of this...I read...and re-read this article. And still cannot discern its motive, intent or point of view.

The House, whatever its flaws, frailties and failings...one must take merely a moment to imagine all that would be imposed at this very moment without their "do nothing" efforts to prevent it.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
Behold, the trappings of the professional bureaucrat.

Why is it that a "do-nothing congress" is considered a bad thing?

Why do we seem to contemplate that not passing any new laws as counter-productive?

Do we not have enough laws already? There are hundreds of thousands of laws, guidelines, statutes, etc that restrict/control/confine/hinder and otherwise harm us in just our day-to-day lives. Why, one might get the impression that your average slug of an elected type had nothing better to do and no real job skills to speak of so they have to get legislation sponsored and passed in order to be heralded as a "doer".

"So-and so got things DONE!"

Which is politispeak for "he/she has the savvy and political talent to get more laws on the books"

UGH!

Please----make it STOP!

Keep the government OUT of my life, my house, my diet, my CAR!

What we've come to is that they are now seeking ways to make names for themselves through heavy socialism. It's an ego-feeding, look-at-me, ain't I sumpin'? kind of mentality.

NONE of them can change the oil in their own car fer crissakes. NONE of them can get their own damned coffee. Gimme a friggin' BREAK---PLEASE!

Our culture that was founded on the attitude of, "So, you're royalty in some other country....big fat hairy deal" has now morphed into..."OOOOOOoooooo...you're on TV....you must BE SOMEbody!" and they pee all over themselves with excitement.

Unreal.

Ridiculously unreal.

Respect for a statesman is one thing but I'm the first guy to tell them to get their own damned coffee.
(show less)
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (24)
All Comments   (24)
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WashingtonDC crony capitalism and ultra secretive Beltway operations will sink capitalism and American Excellence.
In order for Adam smith's "invisible hand" to occur, truth and transparent government is necessary. Today, the opposite is true, here's proof Our present government is actively working AGAINST all Americans!
Did you know that 33 new building complexes have been constructed in (and around) Washington DC’s Capital Beltway over the last 11 years for ONLY top-secret use. Secrecy is spreading like an infection on democracy, and it has the power to impact your wallet if you're not careful. According to the U.S. Information Security Oversight Office, the number of new secrets rose 75% from 1996 to 2009.
From 1995 to 2011 classified documents totaled 1,866,178!!!!
Over the same period, the number of documents referring to those secrets skyrocketed by a factor of nearly 10 - from 5.6 million to 54.7. “Derivatives” from these classified documents literally ballooned from 1997 (some 6,361,366) to 2011 (92,064,862).The United States presently has over 2.3 million national secrets, designated as such by the government over the last 10 years.
Need any more proof this is a crony-capitalist, centralized, command-and-control socio/economic corrupt Washington DC Elite? Its We The Elite People of culture of corruption in all of Washington DC working against We The People. Pray. Amen. Join a Tea Party, urgently. "The Invisible Hand" (capitalism) hasn't a chance in succeeding in current American socio/economic context.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hi Everyone.. Dear friend's step-mother makes $85 hourly on the laptop. She has been fired from work for five months but last month her pay check was $18240 just working on the laptop for a few hours. view it now www.star56.com
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
my co-worker's sister makes $61/hour on the internet. She has been out of a job for ten months but last month her income was $20763 just working on the internet for a few hours. see here,,,,,,
W­W­­­W­.R­­U­S­­H­6­­4.C­­­O­M
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
We have plenty of laws, the problem most of the time is they are not enforced. Illegal Immigration would not be a problem if the current laws were enforced, and state/local governments undermining immigration law aiding and abetting their violation were sanctioned. I.E. all government funds withheld.

Congress monitoring the executive department and ensuring they are following the laws (Hey, Justice Dept uniformly enforcing the laws vice being idealogically driven would be a great thing!!) would be a far better use of their time, and restore faith in government than passing more laws which departments/agencies ignore.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
Maybe if congress did nothing for a year, we would be better off. No new laws, no new spending.

And from President Lincoln, we get an understanding of the perverse nature of power, when we get President Lincoln saying "nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power"

Seems we have given so many in Washington power and we have seen their character.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
In America We The People have three practitioners of this administration's "collective" ideology, and who happen to be all three corrupt morally and ethically:
I.House Speaker John Boehner has become a master at what Government Accountability Institute President Peter Schweizer calls the "Tollbooth Strategy.” "You pay money at a tollbooth in order to use a road or bridge. The methodology in Washington DC is similar: if someone wants a bill passed, charge them money to allow the bill to move down the legislative highway." To date , Mr. Boehner has amassed more than $200,000. That’s why Immigration Reform Bill ( and others)WILL pass.
II.Harry Reid and Obama
Last year, (2012) both were identified on The Ten Worst list for their influence-peddling scandal involving:
1) ENN Energy Group, a Chinese "green energy" company for which Reid "applied his political muscle" - and which just happened to be a major client of the Nevada law firm in which Reid's son, Rory, is a principal.
2)In 2013, on Monday, Harry Reid's close friend and donor, Harvey Whittemore was sentenced to two years in prison for funneling more than $130,000 in illegal campaign funds to Sen. Harry Reid's re-election committee in 2007.
3)”Sen. Reid has sponsored at least $47 million in earmarks that directly benefitted organizations that one of his sons, Key Reid, [RW1] either lobbies for or is affiliated with.
4)Obama and Reid have long opposed a proposed nuclear waste dump in Yucca Mountain, Nevada, which has already cost U.S. taxpayers $15 billion, according to various federal audits. So, Obama simply instructed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to decline to conduct the statutorily mandated Yucca Mountain licensing process, essentially destroying the project.
5)And lastly, Mr. Reid’s implementation of the Senate’s “Nuclear Option” designed to pass all Obama’s nominees. There are 10 corrupt individuals listed on Judicial Watches list of We The Elite People of Culture of Corruption in all of Washington DC morally and ethically devoid individuals...Sebelius, Lerner, Miller, Hillary Clinton, Napolitano, Brenner, et al. Pray. Amen. Join a Tea Party, urgently.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
You may be an Obama supporter, but are you really willing to support others who will be given your tax money to pay for their health insurance? Your rates go up to support them and your annual deductible amount goes up, too. Obama is trying to delay this, but from then on FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE you will pay those higher rates and deductible costs. Since the Democrats all voted for it, they can’t be depended on to join the effort. It’s up to us to vote for Republicans to get enough people in office who want to repeal the law. This is for all government levels. Remember, it’s YOUR money so vote your pocketbook. This situation is hardly different from your taxes being assigned to support an illegal alien, and that will happen when Amnesty is the law. If you don’t believe that surprise is buried in Obamacare, see
http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/stories/2012/october/11/health-care-immigrants.aspx Also, medical taxes go up in 2014. See http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-taxes.php Join with us to our mutual benefit in November 2014 and after obamacare is repealed or defunded we can go back to our normal bickering.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
Let's see if the GOP actually does something substantively to begin the dismantling the progressives agenda beyond the calculated, precisely ineffectual pantomime opposition that effectively enables it to continue by keeping would-be conservative activists on the sidelines believing that they're being heard when they are in fact being ignored by BOTH sides of the corrupted coin in Washington, D.C.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
let's not confuse activity with accomplishment.

and maybe it is time to be happy with congress making less laws, and demanding more control of the lives and behaviors of others.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's NOT immigration. Immigration is already legal. Stop lying. It's AMNESTY, and we don't want it in any way shape or form. Period. And, they not "undocumented immigrants" they are ILLEGAL ALIENS. Invaders. Criminals. Put up a 15 foot high hardened steel fence that stretches from Brownsville to San Diego, then round them up and ship 'em home! THAT would be real "immigration reform".
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, build the fence and enforce the freaking law. No amnesty, no guest worker program, no 'you've been here 10 years so you can stay' BS either.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
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