Lame-duck inaction 
could be crippling

The U.S. House of Representatives recessed Friday until after the Nov. 6 election. Its last act was to pass the “Stop the War on Coal” bill that will die in the Senate.

The Senate, for its part, worked late on Friday to pass several temporary funding bills, already passed by the House, to keep government agencies operating beyond Oct. 1.

Left undone were key items like passing a farm bill and a Pentagon policy bill, and adopting legislation to prevent the U.S. Postal Service from defaulting on billions of dollars.

Oh yeah, there’s also the little matter of adopting a budget measure to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff the nation will tumble over on Jan. 1 if nothing is done.

All these measures have been left to the lame-duck session that begins shortly after the election.Given the hyper-partisan tenor and inaction that have marked Congress for several years, there’s little reason for optimism that senators and representatives will suddenly put duty ahead of politics and somehow reach agreement on such weighty matters.

Even veteran senators like Orrin Hatch of Utah and Ben Nelson of Nebraska say they expect little from lame-duck sessions.

Still, we hope those House and Senate members who have been quietly working to assemble coalitions to pass key pieces of legislation can successfully round up enough of their colleagues to support their efforts. And we hope members of Colorado’s congressional delegation will be part of those efforts.

Most important is dealing with the fiscal cliff that will occur when the Bush tax cuts expire on Jan. 1 and automatic budget cuts take effect. A number of economists have warned that the combination of huge tax hikes and massive spending cuts could push the nation’s economy back into severe recession.

The cuts would require significant layoffs of federal employees and reduce military spending to such an extent that Pentagon officials say it would harm our military preparedness.

Some people in Congress have been trying to craft a compromise that can avoid the economic crisis. But others only want to push the crisis farther down the road.

Don’t worry, some Democratic staffers have said, the fiscal cliff won’t be as bad as those darn economists predict. The cliff is likely to be more of a downward slope.

Meanwhile, some GOP leaders want Congress to take only temporary action to push the Jan. 1 deadline back a few months so that the Romney administration and new Congress can tackle the issue if they are elected.

Members of both parties will have to find ways to work together and take real action on these critical issues soon, or the country they purportedly represent could be in chaos.


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