Congress Vacations While Economy Burns

Struggling Americans get no help from Washington before July 4 break.

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2008— -- With Americans still reeling from this week's report that gas may cost $7 a gallon in a few years and with millions either losing their homes to foreclosure or unable to sell their homes, people are looking looking for help.

Well, don't expect quick action here.

Congress has gone on holiday and told the nation, "See you after July 4th."

Nobody here but tourists, who can't understand why Congress would leave with so much undone.

"I can't really say I know what they do in there," a man from Bakersfield, Calif., said outside the Capitol building. "I know what they're not doing."

Congress failed to agree on energy legislation and in the most surprising failure, lawmakers couldn't come to terms on a housing bill to rescue homeowners threatened with foreclosure.

"What I find most puzzing about this time now is that there is no nervousness on the part of Democrats as an election approaches that Americans are going to hold them accountable for fiddling while the housing crisis continues to burn," said Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

Senate Democrats blame Republicans for delay tactics including filibusters. Republicans say they resort to stalling because Democrats ignore them when they are writing legislation.

The bill to help homeowners is being held up because of a dispute between the Democratic and Republican senators from Nevada, which just happens to be the state with the highest home foreclosure rate in the country.

"You watch the legislative process in action and it is like watching the stuff they put in a hot dog," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

From his home outside Sacramento, Calif., Ralph Conry told ABC News that he and his family could be evicted any time. He said his wife and two sons were upset when a real estate broker tried last week to have a locksmith change locks on their doors.

Conry cannot understand why Congress is moving so slowly at a time when, according to some estimates, more than 8,000 homes go into foreclosure every day.

"People are kind of stuck and Congress is not acting on the people's behalf, and it is very stressing," Conry said.

Congress did pass some legislation before hitting the road: a new GI bill, money for Iraq, and an extension of unemployment insurance.

Congress is also making great progress on something it promised it would not do: loading up spending bills with those earmarks that critics call pork-barrel or pet projects.

In one spending bill alone, earmarks are already up to $619 million compared to $278 million last year, which just goes to show that Congress can act, when it wants to.