Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Time running out for Congress to pass ambitious legislation

As crazy as it seems the clock is ticking on this Congress. There will be a break for July 4 and the whole month of August the House and Senate will be in recess. In September they will reconvene until early October when they'll take a break to finish campaigning. After the November election they'll have a session that will take up most of the rest of that month and last until just before Christmas. And that will be it-this Congress will be history and a much different one will be sworn in in January, 2011.

This summer the Obama Administration has three main priorities: One, get Elaine Kagan onto the Supreme Court. Two, get some kind of Cap and Trade bill done. Three, have some kind of financial regulation bill passed. Kagan will almost certainly be on the Court when it convenes in October but the other two initiatives are on rocky ground-I would bet some kind of financial bill will pass but I don't think the climate bill has much of a chance.

There are other big issues that are lurking. The Congress won't pass the budget until at least after the election. The blueprint was supposed to be done weeks ago but the Democratic leadership doesn't want to force its members to take a tough vote that will ensure large deficits for years to come. This week House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer floated the idea of tax hikes on the middle class. There will already be immediate increases on January 1st as the last of the Bush cuts expire but it seems clear that the Democratic leadership, especially in the House, want to raise income taxes, capital gains taxes and business taxes before they lose their majority in January. They may also try to pass a Value Added Tax (VAT) but it probably would die in the Senate.

Two other major issues are the possible repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy (which has a 50/50 chance of passing) and some kind of comprehensive immigration reform. I think the Democrats will try to jam both of these through in the lame duck session in November-December along with anything else that hasn't cleared the legislative calendar.

There is also "card check" and a campaign finance reform bill dangling out there as well. Card check won't pass unless its stuck as a rider onto some other bill. I don't know if campaign finance reform will pass or what difference it will make in the fall elections.

I suspect the lame duck session will be one of the busiest, nastiest few weeks we've seen in a while in Congress. How will Harry Reid manage it-especially if he's been defeated by Sharron Angle?

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