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While Nobody Was Looking, Congress Did Nothing Again This Week

It’s anybody’s guess where the fiscal slope talks are going after today’s leadership session, but today marks the end of the first week of the lame duck session in Congress. What exactly got done?

Well, the Senate confirmed a director for the FDIC for the first time since Sheila Bair left 16 months ago. The Senate also held exactlythree roll call votes on two pieces of legislation. They cleared a sportsmen’s bill mostly aimed at boosting the electoral hopes of Jon Tester after the fact, and they rejected a cybersecurity bill that Republicans already blocked once before the session. So that would be no movement on the critical items for the lame duck, including the farm bill, tax extenders, postal service reform, an AMT patch and some response to the disaster caused by Superstorm Sandy. The Senate did finish off a couple other bills by voice vote, including a 10-years-in-the-making whistleblower protection bill and a bill that gives a cost of living adjustment for veterans benefits.

How about on the House side? Anything? Well, they held a whopping five roll call votes this week, on a total of three bills. You’ll be pleased to know that the Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act passed 370-19, as well as a bill “streamlining claims processing” for federal employees. The signature bill of the week concerned permanent trade relations status for Russia.

On bigger items like the Violence Against Women Act, House Republicans remain stubbornly opposed to compromise:

House GOP leaders aren’t yielding to a bipartisan coalition of Senate leaders demanding they extend the protections of the Violence Against Women Act — an anti-domestic abuse bill that was first passed with broad support in 1994 but hit a brick wall of Republican opposition earlier this year.

“Nothing has changed,” a senior GOP aide told TPM. “The House has passed a bill, we are ready to move to conference, and the Speaker has announced his conferees. We are waiting on Senate Democrats to follow suit and act.”

The Senate passed a bipartisan version of VAWA with 68 votes that expands its provisions on tribal lands, to undocumented immigrants and members of the LGBT community. All of which is verboten to the House GOP.

So you’ll be happy to know that Congress is working just as hard at doing nothing on ancillary issues as it is on preventing a flood of austerity in the coming year.

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David Dayen

David Dayen