Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Congress Goes into a Lull Ahead of Elections

Drew Thies

With fewer than six scheduled weeks of legislative work scheduled between now and the general election on November 4th, both the House and Senate are slowing down action on Capitol Hill and devoting their focus to campaigning.

Primary elections and political campaigns have come to dominate headlines and airwaves both in Washington and in the states despite some contentious fights over appropriations legislation. Members of Congress are hoping to wrap up business in the Capitol as quickly as possible and return to their home districts.

The campaigning has already begun to directly affect legislation’s fate in the chambers. A once bipartisan bill to increase hunting and fishing access on federal land died in the Senate last week after accusations that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) closed off the amendment process to protect the bill’s vulnerable Democratic sponsor, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC). Hagan’s race is listed as a “toss-up” and the bill was largely seen as a boon to more conservative voters in North Carolina.

There is little chance that the elections will sway the balance of the House, which the Republicans control by a safe margin, but control of the Senate is still largely a coin flip. With some Democrats still polling competitively in more conservative states, Democratic leadership seems content to allow the budget fights to be postponed until after the election, and Republicans might follow suit.

Legislators on both sides are trying to avoid the spats that can turn voters against them. Tome Cole (R-OK), a senior member of the House, remarked that “[Speaker of the House] John Boehner (R-OH) and his leadership are taking all the sharp objects out of the room so we can’t hurt ourselves” ahead of the November elections.

Both Chambers are scheduled to recess for the entirety of August, a yearly routine that allows them extended time in their home states, as well as most of October, when campaigns will be in full-swing.

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