After seven months of short work weeks and near-zero accomplishments, Congress has awarded itself a five-week vacation, deferring a series of tough legislative decisions.
The fractious Republican-led House couldnt even agree to adjourn but left anyway, leaving behind an unfinished drought-relief bill. House leadership threw together a $383 million short-term package of loans and grants, but the Senate, noting it had passed a full reauthorization of the farm bill in June that the House ignored, refused to act. Also steaming was the House Agriculture Committee that had produced a companion measure, which the leadership declined to bring to the floor.
The Senate Finance Committee approved an extension of $200 billion in special-interest business tax breaks.
The House went on record favoring a top income tax rate of 25 percent and repealing many of the Senate-approved tax breaks. Dont look for any agreement on those bills.
Both sides set the stage for the major tax confrontation of the fall – whether to extend some or all of the Bush-era tax breaks. The House voted to renew all the cuts, which expire Jan. 1, while the Senate eliminated tax cuts for families earning more than $250,000 a year.
The lawmakers left town with no progress made in dealing with the fiscal cliff, automatic spending cuts agreed to in a budget deal last summer that the military says will gravely cripple national defense and many economists believe will push the country into another recession.
So theres plenty for Congress to do when it gets back in September. It has scheduled itself to work eight days that month.