Congress is in session this week for the final time this year before the election. I sort of shrugged this off as fairly typical for an election year, but it’s not. Usually, Congress stays in session until about a month before the election. Here they’re leaving with seven weeks to go. The do-nothing Congress has decided to double up on doing nothing.
And it’s not like there’s nothing to do:
The one must-pass piece of legislation — a bill to keep the government funded once the new fiscal year begins Oct.1 — is set for final approval this week in the Senate after having already cleared the House [...]
“There’s been a lot of talk about the work that has not been done,” Hoyer said last week, noting the continued stalemate over the so-called fiscal cliff — the combination of tax hikes set to take effect in December and steep spending cuts in January that, analysts have said, could siphon so much money out of the economy it would prompt a new recession [...]
Congress also may leave undone several other top items, including a farm bill that has been crucial for agricultural states hit hard by drought. Also unfinished is legislation that would provide reforms for the Postal Service, which has been dogged by financial shortfalls, and an extension of the Violence Against Women Act, a normally bipartisan bill that authorizes program funding for victims of domestic and sexual abuse.
The lack of a farm bill, which I chronicled here, is particularly stunning, because it will only hurt those rural-state Congressmembers, the majority of whom are Republican. With crops already planted for the year, an expired farm bill may not have a significant impact for the rest of 2012. But it would generate a load of uncertainty going into 2013, with funding for crop-insurance programs expiring and the federal government forced to pay higher prices for crops, under a 1949 law to which the country would revert back.
For example, the current price of a bushel of wheat is around $6.50. Under the 1949 farm bill, the government would pay $13.13 for that same bushel of wheat, according to an Environmental Working Group analysis.
Private companies then would have to pay more to persuade farmers to sell to them instead of the government. The resulting situation could prove expensive for the government and grocery shoppers.
“If they let it expire and don’t do anything at all, it reverts back to the 1949 law, which has all sorts of set-asides and supply control that would be extremely expensive for the federal government and not good for our food supply,” VanderWal said.
This wouldn’t really come into play until 2013, experts say, but a protracted stalemate would make it hard for farmers to secure financing. And dairy farmers, which work year-round, would see price rises right away. So when you’re paying more for milk next month, thank Congress. And this will hurt small producers much more than agribusiness, because they have more risk with less crops.
As for VAWA and postal service reform, these are also needed priorities that will just go unfinished for months, probably through to next year, since the fiscal cliff will be all-consuming in the lame duck.
I think “irresponsible” is the word I’m looking for in talking about this Congress.