Gone Fishing—Not Really
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
There was a time when politics in general and Washington in particular closed down during the hot summers, especially in August–even in a presidential election year. The only activity that was Washington related were the quadrennial Republican and Democratic conventions; but even those lasted only four days each and the rest of August was down time until campaigns were launched on Labor Day. This year not only were the conventions over before July ended, but the campaigning has continued virtually non-stop as Trump and Clinton duke it out to stay in front of the news. This despite the fact that many of the anchor personalities and news hosts are sneaking away for vacations. There still is likely to be one more real yawn before Washington gets back to crazy normal for four weeks before taking off in October to campaign.
Congress itself—although 34 Senators are up as well as the 435 House Seats—has serious business to transact after the Members return after their extended recess and before they depart for the final campaign rush. Whether any real action occurs—even passage of some of the money bills needed to keep the Government functioning after September 30th—remains to be seen. Congress is more likely to provide a continuing resolution to keep the Government in business and return for a lame duck session to finish action on the funding bills.
Actually there is an enormous about of legislation awaiting action but no one seems to be interested in doing the work. For example, it would be responsible at a minimum if, upon its return after Labor Day, Congress gave the President adequate funding to combat the spreading Zika virus as well as funding for anti-virus research and testing. Congress’ failure to act to date, is quite a statement about the level of obscene partisanship that has evolved in Congress over the past several years. Even now it remains unclear whether they will be moved to elevate their level of concern for anything—even a looming medical crisis.
Ironically, should the Republicans not only lose their bid to regain the White House but also lose control of the Senate in January, there could be a push for congressional action in a lame duck session after November 8. There is even some possibility that the Senate could act on the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland after the election if they believe that a President Hillary Clinton’s potential nominees could be more liberal than Garland.