The warring factions have left the summer heat of Washington, D.C. behind and are seeking to regroup for the fall offensive. Barack Obama is playing golf with the billionaires on Martha’s Vineyard. Senators and congressmen are either on foreign junkets or have gone home to hold town meetings in their respective districts.
But the quiet won’t last for long. Fall promises to erupt into full-blown verbal gunfire as the critical issues facing America can no longer be ignored by the governing elite.
First on the agenda is the continuing resolution (CR). A CR is the acceptance of appropriations failure. When the Congress is so dysfunctional that it fails to pass formal appropriations bills by the end of the U.S. government’s fiscal year, the leadership bundles existing programs into a giant CR to keep the government functioning.
The fiscal year for the government is October 1 to September 30. This means that if a continuing resolution isn’t passed, the government will go into some type of partial shutdown. And since this fall’s issues are so intense and so bitterly disputed, they will likely go beyond the fiscal year deadline.
First on deck is Obamacare, as Obama himself said in a news conference before he split the scene. The president complained that Republicans have an “ideological fixation” with killing the Obamacare law. He championed the one-year postponement for the law’s employer coverage mandate. He called it a minor “tweak,” and ridiculed Congressional voices that have objected to his unilateral rewriting of the law.
On the other hand, Senator Mike Lee of Utah has advocated funding all of government except for the Obamacare implementation. Lee says it’s unfair to hit average citizens with costly mandates while at the same time giving businesses a pass.
These two visions are likely to clash in the CR. If the House of Representatives passes a CR with everything but Obamacare in it, the Senate won’t allow the bill a vote. If the Senate passes a CR with new spending or the removal of the sequester cuts, it’ll likely never get a vote in the House.
Whatever happens, expect Obama to blame everyone but himself (as usual). And as I’ve predicted repeatedly, the Obamacare opponents will blink first because they’re likely to be re-elected regardless of what their constituents believe about the health law.
Also tied up with the CR will be a move to extend the debt ceiling (again). A debt ceiling extension may even pass without a big battle. The budget deficit has shown signs of slimming down. The massive tax increases passed as part of the fiscal cliff deal, together with the slight slowing of spending as a result of sequester, show a glimmer of budget deficit hope.
This glimmer will soon vanish if the economy slows, but Congress knows that there’s no better way to get re-elected than to not rock the boat. As sad as it is to say, individual senators and members of Congress are much more concerned with getting re-elected than with the future of the country. So I’ll venture to predict that the orgy of borrowing continues. The resolution on the debt ceiling should sail through Congress.
And, finally, if our representatives get past the CR and the debt ceiling, immigration reform will be next.
No issue unites the D.C. elite quite like immigration reform. The Republicans want to provide their business constituencies with cheap labor, and the Democrats know that immigrants support Democratic candidates by a margin of 2 to 1.
In Washington, they see this as a fair swap – cheap labor for cheap votes. Therefore, both parties win. The only people negatively affected by the immigration bill are middle class workers who have no effective voice in D.C. and are facing pressure to keep wages low. Their silence will further their undoing.
Unless a massive citizen movement rises against immigration reform, it’s likely to pass in the fall. So far, only the voices of the political dispossessed have voiced concerns, and Congress finds it easy to ignore unorganized voices speaking out.
So there you have it: Enjoy the momentary pause and silence. It won’t last long.
This article originally appeared at CapitolHillDaily.com and is reprinted here with permission.
Photo credit: MetalRiot (Creative Commons)