Congress: So Close, But Yet So Far

December 19, 2011 | By Adrianne Fielding | Post a Comment

Just when you thought that Congress might actually manage to push through its year-end policy agenda and adjourn for the holidays, there’s been yet another twist in the story.

Late last week, the Senate passed a bipartisan deal to extend expiring payroll tax cuts for two months. The bill also included short-term extensions to unemployment benefits and the current Medicare reimbursement rates to physicians. Congress would have had to revisit the issues by February to hammer out the details of and pass legislation for the remainder of the year.

The Senate overwhelming passed the two-month bipartisan agreement under the apparent assumption that the House was prepared to pass it as well.  But then, enough members of the House got riled up about it that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) publicly rejected it.

Boehner and others – including one of the men who brokered the deal itself, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) – began asserting that congressional negotiators should go back and develop a deal that covers the entire year.

The House is still expected to vote on the measure tonight, but is widely expected to kick it back to the negotiating table.

So the can of worms has been wrested back open, and will undoubtedly include renewed calls for more spending cuts to offset the cost of the extensions.

In addition to those directly impacted by the policies whose fate Congress is currently weighing, the federal agencies, local governments, nonprofits, communities and individuals that benefit from federal grant programs are – yet again – left hanging on the line to see what it might mean for them.

Someone’s going to end up with coal in their stocking out of this.

(Photo credit: johnnyberg/stock.xchng)

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