Friday, February 23, 2018

Congress breaks for 5 weeks, but much work undone

WASHINGTON — Congress' performance matches its approval rating — abysmal.

Lawmakers headed home for a five-week break with a lengthy list of uncompleted work and little to show for the past year and a half except an eye-popping amount of dissatisfaction: Nearly 80 percent of Americans are unhappy with them. The Republican-controlled House and Democratic-led Senate have set record lows for production and record highs for dysfunction.

Partisanship and election-year politics have left a drought-stricken nation wondering if new help will ever come and the U.S. Postal Service uncertain about its solvency. Some $110 billion in automatic, across-the-board cuts are due to hit military and domestic programs on Jan. 2, yet no bipartisan solution is in sight or even under discussion by those who really matter.

At the same time, President George W. Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans expire, threatening to send a sluggish economy right back into recession.

Congress stumbled out of Washington for a five-week vacation a day early on Thursday on a typical note: a GOP filibuster in the Senate of a bipartisan cybersecurity bill and the House's abandonment of a one-year extension, as Republican leaders had planned, of food and farm policy.

Senate Republicans were unhappy about being denied a chance to amend the cybersecurity bill. House Republicans were unable to find party unity on food stamps and farm subsidies

The House settled for a paltry restoration of expired disaster programs for livestock producers and tree farmers. The Senate wouldn't do even that, demanding a full five-year farm bill with 80 percent of it, or about $400 billion, devoted to food stamps.

More broadly, just 151 laws have been enacted in 19 months; more than two dozen of them were to rename post offices and courthouses, or to add individuals to the Smithsonian board. By comparison, the previous Congress enacted 383 laws with President Barack Obama in the White House and Democrats controlling Capitol Hill.

A poll last month by CBS News and the New York Times found Congress with a 12 percent approval rating and 79 percent disapproval score.

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