Lit­tle time and much to do

The Daily Herald - - OPINION -

With kids and Congress head­ing back to their work, there’s con­fi­dence that at least the kids will get some­thing ac­com­plished by the end of the year.

Re­turn­ing this week from re­cess, rep­re­sen­ta­tives and se­na­tors have un­til the end of Septem­ber to pass a spend­ing bill — once again un­der the threat of a po­ten­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down — be­fore tak­ing an­other re­cess prior to the Nov. 8 gen­eral elec­tion.

Even count­ing a lame-duck ses­sion fol­low­ing the elec­tion, that doesn’t leave a lot of time to com­plete work on a sub­stan­tial list of is­sues, es­pe­cially when one side or the other has some­thing to gain from pro­cras­ti­na­tion. Among the most im­por­tant is­sues:

Spend­ing: Congress must pass a spend­ing bill by the end of the fis­cal year, Sept. 30, to avoid a shut­down. As they have in the past, it’s likely the House and Se­nate will ap­prove a con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion — Latin for “kick­ing the can down the road” — to keep the gov­ern­ment open for busi­ness while a pack­age is ne­go­ti­ated.

But dis­agree­ment is likely in how long of a punt is needed. Democrats and at least some Repub­li­cans want a short kick just past the elec­tion, so the spend­ing plan can be passed be­fore the end of the year. More conservative Repub­li­cans, in­clud­ing the House Free­dom Cau­cus, are push­ing to ex­tend the bud­get into March to al­low the next Congress and a new pres­i­dent to cut a deal.

That might be a gam­ble for Repub­li­cans, par­tic­u­larly with the po­ten­tial for the GOP to lose the Se­nate as well as the White House in Novem­ber, coax­ing them to lift their ob­jec­tions to ne­go­ti­a­tions be­fore the end of the year.

Zika: Re­gard­ing the Zika virus, the Se­nate, in May, passed a deal that would have pro­vided $1.1 bil­lion to fund vac­cine re­search on the virus, which causes birth de­fects, as well as ef­forts to con­trol mos­qui­toes that carry the virus. House Repub­li­cans re­sponded with their own $1.1 bil­lion plan, but gummed it up with re­stric­tions against birth con­trol (the disease can be spread by sex­ual con­tact), spend­ing cut off­sets and an eas­ing of rules against spray­ing pes­ti­cides near wa­ter sources.

We’re al­ready see­ing the dam­age that can be done when pes­ti­cides aren’t used with care when at­tempt­ing to con­trol Zika; more than 3 mil­lion honeybees were killed ear­lier this month in South Carolina when a county in that state used aerial spray­ing and didn’t al­low bee­keep­ers to make ad­e­quate prepa­ra­tions be­fore the spray­ing.

The House should adopt the Se­nate’s bill, which pro­vides the spend­ing that has been de­layed and threat­ens to fur­ther limit work on a vac­cine and re­spon­si­ble mos­quito-con­trol work.

TPP: The win­dow is clos­ing on a trade bill that is cru­cial to the econ­omy of Wash­ing­ton state and the na­tion. Pres­i­dent Obama, now re­turn­ing from the G20 Sum­mit in China, will seek rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Tran­sPa­cific Part­ner­ship, a trade deal ne­go­ti­ated with 11 other Pa­cific Rim na­tions. Both par­ties’ pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates are op­posed, my­opi­cally, to the trade deal, mak­ing ap­proval nec­es­sary be­fore the end of the year.

Re­fusal to rat­ify the TPP will cre­ate a vac­uum that China, which isn’t a part of the trade deal, can ex­ploit, al­low­ing it to ne­go­ti­ate its own pacts with the other coun­tries, most cer­tainly with less strin­gent pro­tec­tions for work­ers, the en­vi­ron­ment, copy­right and other con­cerns that have been in­cluded in the TPP.

Supreme Court: The re­fusal of Repub­li­cans to con­sider Pres­i­dent Obama’s nom­i­na­tion of Mer­rick Gar­land to the U.S. Supreme Court, fol­low­ing Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia’s death in Fe­bru­ary, will again leave the court with a 4-4 ide­o­log­i­cal split as it be­gins hear­ing cases in Oc­to­ber.

Wait­ing to seat a jus­tice in the hopes of avoid­ing a Demo­cratic pres­i­dent’s nom­i­nee ig­nores his­tory and sim­ple fair­ness. Six other jus­tices have been con­firmed in pres­i­den­tial elec­tion years, and ev­ery other nom­i­nee who wasn’t with­drawn from con­sid­er­a­tion re­ceived a vote within 125 days of nom­i­na­tion; Gar­land has been wait­ing 174 days.

As with spend­ing, how­ever, Repub­li­cans risk los­ing some pull with the is­sue and could start budg­ing de­pend­ing on the re­sults of the elec­tion.

Avail­able work­ing days in Septem­ber, Novem­ber and De­cem­ber don’t leave a lot of time to get any of the above done.

At least we can count on the kids to pro­duce some­thing wor­thy of hang­ing on the fridge be­fore the end of the year.

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