Midville respite

Members of Congress must be smiling as they unpack their suitcases back home in Midville while workmen hang the red, white, and blue bunting on the speakers' stand in preparation for Fourth of July orations.

US representatives and senators have defied the assumption that little worthwhile gets done on Capitol Hill in an election year. Most can feel they've earned a summer vacation and trip to San Francisco or Dallas for the party convention.

The legislators are probably as surprised as the rest of us at how well a Republican-ruled Senate and Democratic-controlled House have been able to deal with as tricky a set of foreign and domestic issues as Congress has ever faced.

Even the Democrats must admit that the White House, no doubt with a thought to November, has shown considerable restraint in letting Congress work things out.

As usual, there has been a lot of pressure for decisive action on the budget. And this year it has been complicated by the need to address the deficit problem. But while partisanship and differences in economic philosophy may have slowed the process, it must be conceded that the debates in the House and Senate over these crucial issues have been deliberative in the positive sense.

With only the defense package to be decided, among major issues, it now looks as though meaningful deficit-reduction legislation will be enacted before the election. Even though it may take a lame-duck session to adopt a final budget resolution, there's something to be said for waiting until election pressure is off to handle this sensitive task.

Meanwhile, both Democrats and Republicans are likely to be applauded by most of their constituents for the immigration reform bill, action toward deficit trimming and a new bankruptcy act, and the widely supported bill penalizing states that fail to raise the drinking age to 21.

Many members of Congress are taking home with them a little round duffel bag that looks a lot like a pork barrel. In it are one or two carefully wrapped packages they'll be displaying to the folks as they make the rounds in the next few days. Despite the questionable repute of such projects, they're at least likely to be good for the local or regional economy.

So the nation's lawmakers will be speechifying, munching hot dogs, watching fireworks, and just plain relaxing for a few days with good conscience - of course not really forgetting that we're all watching, and waiting.

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