What are the highest priorities, as well as the biggest obstacles, facing Congress when it returns to session in September?
When Congress reconvenes after the August recess, there are several issues we must address in a rather short window of time. This is a result of House Republicans refusing to work on any issue important to the American people. Their failure to lead has brought us to the point where every major bill is a priority in the final days of this Congress.
From passing a meaningful jobs bill to outlining a long-term solution to address our nation’s debt, the Republican-controlled House has been unwilling to work with the president and Senate on anything of substance for the past two years. Instead, conservative members of Congress have engaged in election year posturing and political games while ignoring many of their Congressional obligations.
How else can you explain more than 30 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act but not one viable jobs bill?
The Republicans’ dereliction of duty has left us in a precarious position on several matters that must be addressed in the coming months, including many that will have a profound impact on the Central Coast.
One such issue is the Farm Bill, which expires at the end of September. This bill controls our nation’s food supply and must be reauthorized every five years. Failure to act would revert food policy back to laws written in the 1930s that are inconsistent with today’s modern needs.
The Senate has already extended the Farm Bill another five years but the House has failed to even schedule a vote on the issue.
This bill is important to our local economy because it includes several provisions concerning the specialty crops and organic farming methods that create jobs here in California. The clock is ticking, but as the Ranking Member on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, I still remain hopeful that we will pass a comprehensive and meaningful Farm Bill before the Sept. 30 deadline.
Where I remain less hopeful is the fiscal cliff the Tea Party Republicans are pushing the country toward.
During the last debt debate, Congress passed a measure called sequestration that would trigger automatic spending cuts if Congress fails to eliminate a $1.2 trillion shortfall from our budget by January. The cuts would come from programs championed by both Democrats and Republicans. Additionally, the Bush-era tax cuts would expire at that point.
The purpose of sequestration was to encourage both sides to negotiate and look for compromises to address our long-term fiscal problem. The Democrats’ plan calls for investment in the Middle Class through tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans and identifies spending cuts that would help achieve those budget goals.
But the Tea Party-led Republicans refuse to negotiate beyond the Paul Ryan budget plan. The plan doubles down on tax cuts for the wealthy paid for by enacting drastic spending cuts on social programs, ending Medicare as we know it and raising taxes on many in the Middle Class. This plan would hurt our economy and still leaves us with deficits for several decades to come.
By refusing to ask the wealthiest to pay their fair share, Tea Party conservatives have shown their willingness to push our country over that fiscal cliff. According to a report last week by the Congressional Budget Office, failure to reach a compromise would throw our economy back into a recession.
Sadly, this is just the latest example of the Tea Party Republicans’ lack of concern for Main Street America during their time in office. I have often said that leadership is about getting results. House Republicans’ refusal to work with the Democrats on any problem facing America has left us with few results.
And that failure in leadership by House Republicans will be the biggest hurdle to overcome as we try to tackle all of these priorities in the remaining days of Congress.