It was a classic rush to the finish line on Wednesday for the Congress, as Democratic leaders put off work on major legislation until after the November elections.
The day began with word leaking out from top Democrats that there would be no vote in the House on extending the Bush tax cuts before the elections.
It wasn’t a shock, but it almost resulted in a shock being delivered to Democrats, as it took the vote of Speaker Nancy Pelosi to gain full House approval of a measure that allowed Congress to leave town until November 15.
Republicans tried their best to slam the Democrats at every turn, arguing that a vote to adjourn the Congress was in essence a vote to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire.
House GOP Leader John Boehner said it was ridiculous that Congress was leaving for the elections without approving one budget bill for next year, or voting on the tax cuts issue.
“The American people sent us here to do their work,” Boehner said on the House floor, “We’re not here to do our work to get re-elected.”
Two hours later, Senate Democrats emerged from a lunch time meeting talking about going home, which told all of us that it was just a matter of time until lawmakers were driving like mad to the airport.
“People are starting to smell the fumes of the airplanes out at the airport,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC).
“I want to go home,” DeMint added.
Other Senators did too, as around 4:30, a deal was struck to provide for final votes on a stop-gap budget to keep the government running when the new fiscal year begins tomorrow, and on the Congressional adjournment.
The Senate voted 69-30 in favor of the “Continuing Resolution” which keeps federal government doors open. 11 Republican Senators voted in favor of that plan.
There was one more vote in the Senate immediately after that, but it must have been too close for some planes and trains home, as six different Senators ran out the door before the final vote on adjournment.
They were Senators Bond (R-MO), Carper (D-DE), Dodd (D-CT), Kyl (R-AZ), Rockefeller (D-WV) and Sanders (I-VT).
While Senators left at a decent hour, House members watched the clock plod its way toward midnight before agreeing to the CR budget plan, engaging in one final round of partisan finger pointing.
“Democrats in Congress just don’t get it,” said House GOP Leader John Boehner (R-OH).
” It is time to get serious about cutting spending, and Republicans will continue standing with the American people to do just that,” Boehner added.
On November 2, the voters will get their say on the House and Senate. We’ll see how much it changes things for next year.