Congress goes on summer break: Top 5 things it left undone

Members of Congress have skedaddled for the month of August, leaving behind a long list of unfinished business.

Technically speaking, the House of Representatives has not adjourned – a small group of Republican lawmakers banded with Democrats to prevent the House from taking a formal recess. Republicans did that so as to be sure to prevent President Obama from making any recess appointments during the next five weeks, and Democrats say Congress shouldn’t go home for its annual summer break with so many issues unresolved.

What did Congress leave in the lurch? Here are five of the top pressing issues.

5. Postal reform

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters
The US Postal Service faces financial problems and may close offices in rural areas. This Aug. 1 photo is of a United States Post Office in Manhasset, N.Y.

On Aug. 1, the US Postal Service went into default for the first time in its history, failing to make a $5.5 billion payment to its employee pension fund. That doesn’t hurt the post office’s immediate ability to function, but it speaks to an urgent truth: Congress needs to fix the mail.

Congress, however, is deadlocked on postal reform. The Senate approved a reform bill back in April that would cut costs and begin phasing in structural reforms to the USPS.

A much harsher House bill fashioned by House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R) of California hasn’t been brought to the House floor because it’s unclear if it can pass over objections from Democrats and some Republican lawmakers from rural areas, many of whom could see some of the post offices shuttered in their districts. (In the Senate, several Democrats from rural states opposed even that chamber’s more modest reductions in postal service operations.)

Will Congress deliver for the postal service? There’s no indication that the House is interested in handling the matter when it returns from recess.  

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