US Capitol night ZACH GIBSON/Getty Images
Congress returns this week from its August recess, to do who-knows-what, having thus far in 2017 not set the woods on fire with legislative accomplishment.

As summer fades, D.C. follies crank up anew

Subtracting holiday recesses and long weekends to/from the home districts, there are precious few working days left in the 2017 congressional year.

Crikey! Where did summer go? Yeah, I know, it’s still 90 degrees-plus, with 5,000 percent humidity, the dratted lawn still has to be mowed, and stuff in pots and beds still has to be watered, despite probably the wettest August in my area in a long time.

Already sunrise is lollygagging well past 6 a.m. and sunset is 7:30-ish, the late evening sunlight is transitioning to a softer, more golden hue, shadows lengthen, yellow fall butterflies flit thither and yon, hummingbirds are drinking it up in preparation for their long migration south, leaves from the oak trees daily litter the deck and yard and soon will be falling by the thousands, the yummy backyard tomatoes are but a distant memory, having given up the ghost end of July, fall wildflowers are blooming along the roadsides, woolly worms are crossing the highways on their journey who-knows-where, morning sunrises are punctuated with the distant boom of dove hunter guns, my nose knows the seasons are changing (sniffle, snuffle, achoo!), harvesting pace daily becomes more frantic, and before we know it the farm landscape will be bare again, another crop in the bins and gins.

Congress returns this week (Sept. 5) from its August recess, to do who-knows-what, having thus far not set the woods on fire with legislative accomplishment; if anything, the past eight months have been even more “do nothing” than what has become the norm in recent years. Then it won’t be long until the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays, and whammo!, 2017 will be history.

Perhaps by some miracle, before year’s end Congress will develop and approve a replacement health care plan (and there will be pork in the treetops as pigs fly), or tax reform (don’t bet the farm on that either), or a program to revamp the nation’s crumbling infrastructure (anybody know if there actually is an infrastructure plan after the presidential announcement got hijacked in a firestorm of furor over Charlottesville?). Or maybe the legislative branch and executive branch will settle down and begin working bipartisanly for the good of the country (yeah, sure, hold your breath on that one). All this nothingness despite a one party administration that should be in the catbird seat when it comes to ramrodding through legislation?

Oh well, they did manage to confirm a new Supreme Court justice, and sanctions against Russia were enacted speedily, reluctantly signed by a president who may or may not have been too cozy with the top Russki prior to last fall’s elections, as an ever-widening, ever more expensive investigation continues.

The reality is that, subtracting holiday recesses and long weekends to/from the home districts, there are precious few working days left in the 2017 congressional year to deal with issues such as:

  • Costs of what is expected to be the most expensive natural disaster in the country’s history, Hurricane Harvey.
  • Raising or not raising the debt ceiling, which they let slide before leaving town for the August recess, despite Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin imploring them to get the job done.
  • Passing a budget before Sept. 30 or facing a government shutdown, not likely to set well with a public increasingly intolerant of such things.
  • Dealing with or not dealing with other Sept. 30 deadlines, such as expiration of the National Flood Insurance Program (sure to be in the spotlight in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey), and whether to privatize the Federal Aviation Administration, which is responsible for the nation’s air traffic control system, or lacking support, just reauthorize it.
  • What will or won’t be done in attempt to rein in the North Korean nut job Kim Jong Un, who keeps lobbing missiles thither and yon and blustering about nuking the U.S.

And with the frenzied politicking, executive/legislative infighting, and fund-raising leading up to the 2018 mid-term elections, the likelihood of Congress getting much accomplished in the way of completed legislation next year is also exceedingly slim.

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