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Welcome back, Congress

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Congress is back in session today, and it's got a lot on its agenda. A food safety bill, for instance. The Bush tax cuts. An infrastructure bank. Ratification of the START treaty. But as Brookings' Thomas Mann says in this preview, they're not likely to actually do any of it. And when I say "they," I mean the Senate. Pay special attention to Mann's last line, which must torment Nancy Pelosi:

With one retiring Republican senator’s recent announcement of support, the session may begin with a successful cloture vote on a long-pending bill to provide tax cuts and loan assistance to small businesses. That may well be the only substantive piece of legislation that is passed and signed into law. The President’s new business-friendly proposals on a $50 billion national infrastructure bank, a permanent R&D tax credit, and 100 percent expensing of new business investments over the next 14 months are unlikely to go anywhere. The 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, scheduled to expire at the end of this year, will face a partisan standoff on whether the highest income households have their tax rates extended. This issue likely will not be resolved before a post-election, lame duck session of Congress.

The Senate could pass a measure banning secret holds, which is constructive but will do little to discipline the abuse of the filibuster. It is also possible that the Senate will take up ratification of the new START treaty, but with only a single Republican (Richard Lugar) on record as supporting the treaty, it is unlikely its sponsors will rustle up the necessary 2/3 vote needed for ratification. A child nutrition bill passed by the Senate could be taken up by the House, but resolving differences between the chambers before adjournment is problematic. The Senate could take up a food safety bill passed by the House but that too might have trouble clearing the hurdle of a House-Senate conference or its equivalent. Some individual appropriations bill may more forward in the House but a continuing resolution will be required to keep the government in business until after the election.

Virtually all of the 372 bills passed by the House but not taken up in the Senate will die with the end of the 111th Congress. The relatively brief (albeit painful and ugly) period of legislative productivity has largely ground to a halt.

Photo credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg.

By Ezra Klein  |  September 13, 2010; 10:38 AM ET
Categories:  Congress  
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Comments


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Posted by: juanluis14 | September 14, 2010 2:17 AM | Report abuse

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