Endgames for the lame duck US Congress

The lame duck session for the US Congress is reaching its conclusion with emphasis on keeping the Federal Government funded and averting another shutdown. Ed O’Keefe from the Washington Post reports.

Negotiators were racing the clock Monday to release a more than $1 trillion spending package to keep the federal government open through the end of the fiscal year, capping the least productive congressional session in modern American history.

House and Senate leaders were reviewing the final details of the massive bill on Monday afternoon with the goal of posting the text by midnight so that the Republican-controlled House can vote as early as Wednesday morning. Failure to do so might delay plans to approve the legislation by Thursday night when current funds expire.

The bill will include funding levels for everything from the Environmental Protection Agency to the fight against Ebola to securing U.S. embassies around the world. The omnibus legislation would fund most of the government through the end of the fiscal year in September.

So what are the chances of the spending package surviving the bickering and partisan politics?

Republicans and Democrats are waiting to see what, if any, policy “riders” might be tucked into the spending bill. Pro-abortion rights lawmakers warned that some conservatives were trying to add language allowing individuals and corporations to use a “conscience clause” to deny abortion coverage as required by the Affordable Care Act. Others Democrats raised concerns that GOP lawmakers might try to block the District of Columbia from legalizing marijuana possession as District residents voted to do last month. Another group is concerned about big spending cuts at the EPA or for government-funded medical research.

House Speaker John Boehner is confident that the bill will pass but the bill supporters will have to keep enough of the ideologues onside for the bill to become law. But Nancy Pelosi the House Minority Leader is apparently taking a hands off approach and isn’t encouraging her colleagues to take action one way or the other. In short she’s playing politics, this is disappointing. Does she want a shutdown so the GOP looks bad in the eyes of the voters?

Filibuster rules in the Senate are also a hot topic with Republicans after the Democrats eliminated filibusters for most presidential nominations. Well after all their tub thumping and chest beating some in the GOP are having a change of heart.

 Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the rules change a “power grab” and vowed to restore the old rules, but has since backed off that statement.

Other Republican senators who once railed against changing the rules said they might now support keeping them.

“I’ve kind of gradually come to the conclusion, keep the rule the way it is. Frankly, even with the old rule, the vast majority of presidential nominees went through,” Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), the longest serving GOP senator, said last week.

This all sounds hypocritical. As soon as the boots on the other foot the Republicans sell out on their principals.

The entertainment of the week will probably be Dr Jonathan Gruber’s appearance before  a House panel answering questions on his comments about the implementation of Obamacare. So the end is nigh for what O’Keefe considers to be the most unproductive congressional session in modern US history. No wonder the voters are cynical about goings on in Washington DC.

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