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Congress exits Washington to hit campaign trail

The most partisan, least productive Congress in memory has skipped out of Washington for the campaign trail. Left behind for a postelection session is a pile of unfinished business.

By Andrew TaylorAssociated Press / September 22, 2012

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, leaves after meeting with reporters Capitol Hill in Washington on Friday as Congress prepared to shut down until after elections in November.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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WASHINGTON

The most partisan, least productive Congress in memory has skipped out of Washington for the campaign trail.

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The Senate shuttered the Capitol soon after sending President Barak Obama stopgap spending legislation that will make sure the government won't shut down on Oct. 1. It passed early Saturday morning by a 62-30 vote.

Left behind for a postelection session is a pile of unfinished business on the budget and taxes, farm policy and legislation to save the Postal Service from insolvency.

The GOP-controlled House had beat its retreat Friday morning after taking one last, futile slap at Obama – passing a bill entitled the "Stop the War on Coal Act." The measure, dead on arrival in the Senate, was aimed at boosting the coal industry in its battle against new environmental regulations while hurting Obama's political prospects in coal states like Ohio and Virginia.

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The Democratic-controlled Senate's middle-of-the-night session came after a spitting match between Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and the chamber's Republicans over Reid's insistence on advancing legislation by Sen. Jon Tester of Montana to boost access to public lands for hunting and fishing. Tester is perhaps the Senate's most endangered Democrat and Republicans protested that he was being given special treatment in a nakedly political move to boost his reelection chances. The measure eventually cleared a procedural hurdle on a sweeping 84-7 vote.

The votes came at midnight to give senators who had scattered from Washington time to return. Democrat Claire McCaskill was in Missouri Friday for a debate, while Michael Bennet, D-Colo., had been in the southwest portion of his state to attend a ceremony celebrating the new Chimney Rock National Monument. Tea party star Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was venting his frustrations with American Airlines on Twitter.

The only must-do item on the get-out-of-Dodge agenda was a six-month spending measure to fulfill the bare minimum of Congress' responsibilities by keeping the government running after the current budget year ends on Sept. 30.

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