House to work at least another week, but with uncertain agenda
By Ben Pershing
The House will stay in session at least through next week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday, but the chamber's pre-adjournment agenda remains in flux and largely dependent on what the logjammed Senate can accomplish.
At his regular weekly press briefing, Hoyer strongly denied a story in Politico suggesting that "House leaders are considering adjourning as early as the end of this week."
"I don't know where that report came from. The answer is no," Hoyer said. He declined to be more specific about timing, adding: "I don't want to speculate on dates other than that we're going to be in next week."
The discussion of the House's endgame comes as Democrats lawmakers are becoming increasingly antsy in Washington, preferring to be on the campaign trail rather than stuck in the Capitol subject to potentially controversial votes. Hoyer has already made one concession to those members, taking the highly unusual step of postponing this week's first votes until Wednesday night rather than the usual Monday or Tuesday evening tallies
"Nobody here doubts that our members - Republicans and Democrats - would like be in their districts talking to their constituents," Hoyer said. "After all, they have to be rehired."
Leaders in both the House and Senate are struggling to determine a way forward on the subject of President Bush's expiring tax cuts. President Obama and party leaders want to let the tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans, while Republicans and some vulnerable Democrats believe all of the cuts should be extended. Given their internal divide, Democrats may decide to punt that issue into a post-election lame-duck session.
As he has before, Hoyer said Tuesday that his chamber would not go first on that front.
"I reiterate - I want to see what the Senate can do," Hoyer said. "I think that will have great effect on what members here believe ought to be done or can be done."
The one must-pass item on the congressional agenda is a short-term spending bill, known as a continuing resolution, that would keep the government funded and operating until Congress can reconvene after Election Day. Hoyer wouldn't say when he expects that measure to move, but -- as with the tax cuts -- he expects the Senate to act first.
Hoyer mentioned a handful of other bills the House could tackle before adjournment, including a NASA authorization bill, a child nutrition bill that is a priority of first lady Michelle Obama, and a bill to provide health care for first responders to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But it's unclear whether any of those bills would also pass the Senate, which is currently slogging through the defense authorization bill and may stay in session a week longer than the House.
Regardless of whether those bills pass, the House is still on track to adjourn relatively early and with far less legislative progress on appropriations bills than in most years. Asked whether members would rather be at home rather than in Washington "naming post offices," Hoyer responded sharply.
"We always name post offices," he said. "It's a worthwhile endeavor to do that and people really do appreciate it, particularly when it's their name and it's their community and we're honoring somebody. ... That's not taking up any time, and you know that and I know that."
And Hoyer predicted that voters would treat congressional Democrats kindly, once they understand what's been accomplished this Congress given the cratering economy Obama inherited from Bush.
"I think we have a compelling message," Hoyer said, "if people know the facts."
| September 21, 2010; 10:54 AM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency, Capitol Briefing | Tags: house schedule; house adjournments; tax cuts; bush tax cuts; steny hoyer; congress adjourn; congress schedule
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