What's the Do-Nothing Congress Up To?

David Hawkings, Roll Call


Lawmakers will spend the coming week performing yet another chapter of Groundhog Day, returning to debates that generated ample heat but yielded no conclusion during the election year.

The Senate will plow through the farm bill one more time. The House will vote again to insist on construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and to prevent student loans rates from doubling.

Very little of that will generate headlines, if for no other reason than the attention of Congress at the moment is all about training its investigative powers on the Obama administration controversies.

Then, at week’s end, the Capitol will go dark, with the entire community scattering for a long Memorial Day weekend of cookouts and commencements.

And when the lights go back on, one recess week later, it will signal the start of the second half of the scheduled legislative year. This is a marker that gives new meaning to the idea that time flies when not much of anything is going on.


This is the 16th week of 2013 when at least one chamber of Congress has been in session. After the recess, that many weeks of legislating remain before Veterans Day in November. The Senate has no announced plans to be around beyond then, although if past practice is a guide, it will keep churning away as long as the House, which has penciled in the second Friday in December as the year’s last getaway day. (It’s been a decade since either chamber closed up shop before Thanksgiving in an off year.)

Still, the notion that the first session of the 113th Congress is at halftime makes intuitive sense to many corporate lobbyists, K Street rainmakers, think tank analysts, nonprofit advocates and political-intelligence purveyors — all of whom have to pace themselves to stay on top of things until the last roll is called.

The first year of a president’s term traditionally provides a guarantee of over-employment for those folks because the president is spending down his political capital before its expiration date and lawmakers are as far away from facing voters as they’ll ever be. No other year in the four-year cycle comes close.

(for more please visit our friends at Roll Call)

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