Since the 113th Congress gaveled in on January 3, the US House has met eight days for legislative business and cast 30 roll call votes. The US Senate met for eleven days and cast an equal number of roll call votes. While numerous votes occurred they were cast on two main issues: supplemental spending for victims of Hurricane Sandy and suspending the U.S.’ current $14.294 trillion public debt limit through May 18, 2013. Included in the debt increase legislation was a provision that withholds the salary of Members of Congress until a budget is adopted for FY 2014.
Congress’ New Year’s Day vote did avoid sending the U.S. over the proverbial “fiscal cliff” extending the Bush-era tax rates for most Americans, as well as long-term unemployment benefits, among other things. But, Congress deferred for two months the $1.2 trillion in spending cuts (known as “sequestration”) of which half is directed to come from cuts to the Pentagon and the remainder from across the board spending on all domestic programs.
Now, with the debt ceiling increased until mid-May all attention from lawmakers in Washington may now be directed toward the federal budget and program cuts. But the continual kicking-the-can-down-the-road on major budget issues may leave little room to debate and adopt other legislation like immigration reform, reauthorization of the farm bill and post office insolvency. Consider, for the months of February through May, Congress will be in session 47 days. During this time Congress must debate and make decisions on sequestration, the remaining FY 2013 appropriations bills funding the federal government, the FY 2014 budget resolution, and another increase in the US debt ceiling.
Moreover, under such legislative time constraints it leaves little if any time for lawmakers to creatively find ways government can be more efficient, adapt to existing 21st century technologies and change the tax code to help spur the US economy. That is what legislative leaders need to focus on. But, unfortunately Congress finds itself in a vicious cycle of exacerbating the problem by delaying decisions.
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