Lame-duck Congress still has a full plate

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Lawmakers, after taking Thanksgiving week off, arrive Monday along with the Capitol Christmas tree for the final leg of the lame duck session to face a daunting agenda. Topping the list are the Bush tax cuts, enacted in 2001 and 2003, and due to expire at the end of the year. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Congress has more than a plateful of leftovers to deal with as lawmakers return to the Capitol on Monday.

At the top of the pile are the George W. Bush-era tax cuts, enacted in 2001 and 2003 and due to expire at year’s end. President Barack Obama and most Democrats want to retain them for any couple earning $250,000 or less a year. Republicans are bent on making them permanent for everybody, including the richest.

The cuts apply to rates on wage income as well as to dividends and capital gains. A failure to act would mean big tax increases for people at every income level.

Obama has scheduled a meeting at the White House with Republican leaders on Tuesday, and possible options for compromise will be on the table, including providing a temporary extension for the wealthy.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has suggested that the Senate hold two votes: one on the Democratic plan confining the tax cut extension to the middle class, the other on Republican leader Mitch McConnell‘s plan to extend the cuts to everyone. If both are defeated, as anticipated, then the real negotiations begin.

“There will be bipartisan support in the lame duck to extend all the tax cuts for two or three years, and I think that vote will be had before the end of the year,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Sunday. “And if the president doesn’t support that, I think he’s running a risk of making the economy weaker.”

Congress also has a Dec. 3 deadline to pass a temporary spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. The Senate hasn’t passed a single spending bill for the budget year that began Oct. 1. Democrats are working on a catchall $1.1 trillion to fund the government’s day-to-day operations. Republicans, fresh off their election victory, are unlikely to go along.

“If this election showed us anything, it’s that Americans don’t want Congress passing massive trillion-dollar bills that have been thrown together behind closed doors,” said McConnell, R-Ky.

One idea is to fund the government at current levels through February, when the next Congress and its influx of anti-spending conservatives, will deal with the matter.

As early as Monday night, the Senate could pass and send to the House a measure that gives the Food and Drug Administration greater authority to order food recalls and inspect imported food.

The House will also consider a Senate-passed child nutrition bill, which promotes healthier school lunches and has the support of first lady Michelle Obama.

Among the leftovers are:

• “Don’t ask, don’t tell”: Senate Republicans have blocked a defense bill that would end the military’s ban on gays serving opening. The Pentagon is to release a report Tuesday on how lifting “don’t ask, don’t tell” would affect military operations, and Democrats say they will try again to change the policy. Graham said he doesn’t believe there are “anywhere near” the votes on the GOP side for a repeal right now.

_Obama says the new START treaty that would reduce nuclear weapons arsenals in the U.S. and Russia is a “national security imperative” and he wants the Senate to hold a ratification vote this year. But a key Republican, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, says the vote should be put off until next year.

On the sidelines, hearings are expected on new airport screening methods judged by some travelers as being too intrusive. To darken everyone’s holiday mood, the president’s bipartisan deficit commission on Wednesday is expected to come out with its ideas on long-term cuts to Social Security, Medicare, defense and other federal spending needed to keep the government solvent.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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2 Responses to "Lame-duck Congress still has a full plate"

  1. Carl Nemo  November 29, 2010 at 11:31 am

    My concern is that this cabal of Congressional slimeballs will slam dunk a bunch of legislation through that wouldn’t pass under normal circumstances such as SB510, the new and ‘improved’ “Food Safety Act 2010″ along with whatever else that’s been released for a vote.

    CHB’s site motto best sums up my fears when these people are mal-legislating as usual:

    “Nobody’s life, liberty or property is safe while Congress is in session or the White House occupied”

    Carl Nemo **==

  2. Carl Nemo  November 29, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Case in point…!

    It seems Congress plans on targeting employer sponsored health plans; ie., to destroy that which is functional, now that they’ve jammed that which is not; I.E., statist sponsored ‘Obamacare’ down our collective throats.

    So they’ll damage corporate sponsored plans mightily then herd us all into that which will be no doubt inferior, mega-costly, wasteful and subject to fraud as Medicare/caid.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101128/ap_on_bi_ge/us_employer_health_plans

    I suggest concerned citizens contact their duty Congressional ‘traitor’ and lean on them concerning this issue; ie., if you wish to keep that which seems to work best for you and yours.

    None of them are discussing the curtailment of waging engineered, adventuristic wars in far off places in order to save a buck or two. / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

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