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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Congressional Chaos

With their vacation days away, the House and Senate are in chaos. AMT, FISA, the appropriation bills and war funding are all on the agenda and according to The Hill, Congress has come to a 'grinding halt".

In the case of the Alternative Minimum Tax bill, it is being reported that members are refusing to even speak to each other.

Remember the House passed it with 216 to 193, short of the votes needed to override the promised Presidential veto, so the Senate passed a patch without the tax increases with a vote of 88 to 5 with 7 note voting, roll call can be found here.

Now the House, even after the Department of Treasury told them in writing that delays would affect millions of taxpayer refunds, is rejecting the Senates bill, in favor of adding taxes instead of using the alternative to raising taxes, which would be to reduce spending to pay for the "patch".

Senate Republicans refused to meet Democrats Tuesday on spending and House Democrats rejected the Senate’s AMT “patch,” preparing a new version paid for with corporate tax increases.
Opposition came to the Senates plan in the form of a letter to Nancy Pelosi from 30 members of the conservative Blue Dog Democrats, which urged them to pay for tax relief.

“Under no circumstance will we vote for any piece of legislation that does not meet the requirements of PAYGO, nor will we vote to waive the PAYGO rules to allow for such legislation,” they wrote, referring to budget rules that require the cost of bills be offset with tax increases or spending cuts.

To give the Blue Dog Democrats the credit they are due, they understand that raising taxes are not their only option and that spending cuts can accomplish the exact same thing.

Then we come to the 11 appropriation bills that are being bunched into one omnibus bill. After negotiations broke down between Democratic and Republican politicians, David Obey(D-Wis.), proposed to wipe our all earmarks from the omnibus in order to save an approximate $9.5 billion.

As of Tuesday, Nancy Pelosi has stated she thought Obey's plan was "great".


Pelosi, however, ran into stiff opposition from her Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who served as the senior Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee before becoming Senate Democratic leader.

The Nevada senator declined to endorse Obey’s proposal when asked about it at a press conference Tuesday.

Not only is Pelosi being forced to compromise with Republican politicians to get anything that will pass and not be vetoed when she knows she does not have the votes in either house to override those vetoes, but she is also having to find compromises between the divisions in her own party.

Pelosi told the Democratic chairmen of the House Appropriations subcommittees, the so-called appropriations cardinals, that earmarks would stay in the omnibus and that Democratic leaders would accede to cut spending to levels demanded by President Bush in order to save 11 spending bills from a veto, said sources familiar with a meeting that took place in Pelosi’s office early Wednesday morning.

They will also be under the gun when they come back from their vacation after the new year begins with the FISA bill which currently is only authorized until February.

After having had the FISA request on their desks for months, they waited until the last minute right before their August recess, then complained about being cornered into making compromises to get it passed before their vacation.

They will be in that same "corner", being rushed, when they get back to work in January, a problem of their own making.

Which brings us to the question of why members of Congress wait until the last minute to deal with these issues which have been on their desks for months on end?

The Democratic politicians complain about the Republicans, calling them obstructionists for using parliamentary procedures that are on the books for the very same reasons that the Republicans are complaining about, so that no one majority can steamroll any specific bill through without input from the minority party.

Frankly, it doesn't matter who is right or who is wrong, whether either side has valid points or not, the bottom line, the result, is the same.

Congressional chaos.