Meanwhile, Back at the Drama Club…

December 16, 2011 | By Adrianne Fielding | Post a Comment

So, Cinderella may to make it home before the clock strikes midnight and her carriage turns into a pumpkin, but it remains to be seen whether she’ll manage to do so without leaving something behind. Substitute Congress for Cinderella and that’s about where things stand at the moment.

With mere hours to spare, Congress is close to checking one of the elusive items off its year-end to-do list: an appropriations package. Congressional negotiators have agreed to a federal spending package for fiscal year 2012 (which began back on Oct. 1).  The House just passed the final bill a few minutes ago, although it may take through the weekend to get it formally passed in both chambers.

(Maybe I’m too tough-love, but I don’t have much sympathy upon hearing how exhausted the members of Congress are, how eager they are to head home for the holidays and all the self-congratulation about finally coming up with the rest of the appropriations for FY 2012 – months late, after multiple CRs, and right before the latest one was about to expire.)

Congress may have to pass a short-term continuing resolution to keep the federal government running through the weekend (since the current CR expires at midnight tonight) to buy time for the final bill to work its way through the voting process.

We’ll be digging deeply into that to identify what it’ll mean for specific grant programs, but with that plotline nearly resolved, Congress is retrenching on the other major front in its year-end policy battle: the upcoming expiration of payroll tax cuts. This morning, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) stated that the House will not back a bill to extend the payroll tax holiday unless it includes language to restart a controversial oil pipeline.

In addition to any other concerns it may have about the project, the White House maintains that it has not gone through the necessary environmental reviews, and President Obama has repeatedly threatened to wield his veto pen on any bill that greenlights the Keystone XL pipeline.

While the appropriations package was largely a matter of Congress fighting internally, this fight pits Congress more directly against the White House. Who’s going to cry uncle first? Will the members of Congress head back to their home districts for the holiday break having left the glass slipper of payroll tax cuts back in Washington? Keep an eye on the comments below this post for updates.

Earlier this week, Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Representative Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) introduced a bill (S 1981, HR 3643) to suspend congressional salaries at the beginning of each fiscal year until both chambers have agreed on its budget resolution and passed appropriation bills. The legislation is similar to a bill that was introduced by Heller (S 1442) back in July and died in committee.

Any takers?

(Photo credit: channah/stock.xchng)


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