Warming Their Engines

The rumors were flying fast on Tuesday afternoon about when the Congress might just say ‘the hell with it’ and leave town for the November elections as early as today.

All that stands in the way is approval of a temporary budget plan that would keep the government running after the current fiscal year ends on Thursday.

That’s needed because the Congress has failed miserably again on the budget front, as so far, the House has approved only two of the twelve budget bills for the government.  The Senate has not even considered one of those measures.

If we rewind back to 2006, when the GOP was ready to get out of town (right before Democrats took back the House and Senate), the Republican Congress had done a little better, approving two of the twelve appropriations bills, with both of those being signed into law by President Bush.

“Any update on when we are getting out of here?” one Senate staffer emailed me on Tuesday afternoon, wondering if it was true that the Senate could skip town as early as Wednesday.

The White House had talked about adding an extra $20-25 billion in spending to the stop-gap budget plan, but Republicans made clear two weeks ago that such extras were not acceptable.

The money would have gone to help bailout the Postal Service, add in extra money for Pell Grants, continue several programs from the Stimulus law that are slated to end on Thursday and more.

But the idea of spending even more money right now was not an option for most Democrats, who know the damage that the issue of big spending and big deficits have done to their party’s candidates.

The temporary budget plan, known here as the “Continuing Resolution”, would keep the government running into early December, meaning that any time in session between the elections and Thanksgiving would not have to deal with that matter.

Some Republicans oppose the CR, mainly because it would fund government agencies at the same levels as last year on a temporary basis, which many GOP lawmakers argue is way too much.

So, barring some last minute hangup, it is possible the Congress could skip town as soon as today, as lawmakers are more than ready to get home and start the final stretch run to November 2.

Get those engines running.  Your lawmaker might be hustling down the Capitol steps and looking for a quick ride to the airport, as the most dangerous place in America today could be the parking lot just down the steps from the House and Senate wings.