Despite having left Washington more than a week ago for a six-week campaign recess that lasts until after the election, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have used the legislative lull to draw attention to the stalemate in the divided Congress.
Rather than report back to constituents on a slate of achievements from what is historically acknowledged as the world’s top deliberative body, the break in legislative business has been punctuated by election-year finger-pointing.
In the Republican-controlled House of Representatives this week, legislators on both sides of the aisle are stressing a narrative of dysfunction.
Today, three months before the so-called ‘Fiscal Cliff‘ deadline is reached, House Speaker John Boehner decried Senate inaction on a GOP House-passed measure to extend all of the current tax rates and other GOP proposals to offset half a trillion dollars in defense cuts, which are set to take effect at the end of the year.
“With so much at stake, Democrats should choose leadership over brinkmanship and work with Republicans to stop the president’s small business tax hike and replace his ‘sequester’ with responsible spending cuts and reforms,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. “Otherwise, President Obama’s failure to lead spells more uncertainty at a time when Americans can least afford it.”
Boehner will take that message with him on the campaign trail to Florida this week, where he will attend a meet and greet at a Romney-Ryan campaign office in Naples, Fla., Tuesday. Boehner is then charging $5,000 for a VIP photo reception, and $500 for a general reception at a fundraiser later in the day with House candidate Trey Radel, the GOP nominee in Florida’s 19th congressional district. From there, an aide says, the speaker will campaign in Central and Northern Florida for other GOP House members and candidates.
In the five weeks remaining until the election, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has planned 65 fundraising and campaign events in eight states and the District of Columbia, according to a senior aide.
Tuesday, she will return to the Capitol to lead a Democratic panel to criticize Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s proposal to reform Medicare. House Democrats have also condemned Republicans for adjourning earlier than any Congress since 1960.
Boehner maintains that the House has already passed legislation to address most of Congress’s highest priorities. One glaring omission, however, is a Farm Bill, which lawmakers watched expire at the end of September after its progression through the House stalled this summer.
Before adjourning, the speaker told reporters that a farm bill would have to wait until voters have their say on Election Day Nov. 6.
“We’ve got people who believe there’s not enough reform in the farm bill that came out of committee,” Boehner said as he laid out the political paradox. “We’ve got others who believe there’s too much reform in the bill that came out of the committee.”
Today, Pelosi blamed House Republicans for allowing the Farm Bill to expire, and said “American families can expect their food prices to increase due to Congressional inaction.”
“This failure to lead means nothing less than economic, nutritional and employment crisis throughout American communities during the worst drought in nearly 50 years,” she wrote in a statement. “The time for the House to act is now, without further delay, to aid the drought-stricken areas from coast to coast and support our nation’s farm community. Republicans must bring Congress back to work.”
The House is scheduled to reconvene Nov. 13, one week after the election.