You know, if I were to start a series on the failings of the Congress to fund the government, I might have a very lengthy series of posts for this year. Let’s start with the obvious: the House just failed to pass a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security for three weeks. This bill is just to get out a few weeks to continue discussions on a full funding measure. Stunningly, it didn’t pass.
The DHS includes functions such as TSA and Secret Service. While functions such as these will likely be declared essential, there remains the possibility of 250,000 people getting furloughed. The remainder may or may not get paid immediately, which means they will work for free until funding is restored.
The reason I bring this up is because the three-week funding measure was looming to drop one crisis upon another. Congress really messed up trying to pass a full-year funding bill with an amendment over-turning the change in immigration law. By allowing so much time to pass, Congressional leaders were unable to gather enough votes to pass a short-term funding bill.
The key point is there is another contentious issue coming on March 15th. It was during February 2014 that Congress postponed debate on the debt ceiling for fifteen months. That period ends on March 15th. We are not too many days away from that becoming major headlines again.
But what there’s more!
Congress needs to re-write Medicare compensation rules to medical practitioners by March 30th. I know nothing about the current rules and won’t likely be following the associated news flow, but wow! March is going to be a crowded month of Congressional news.
Given how poorly Congress performed on funding one of the smaller, yet critically important, departments of the government, I don’t expect them to get together and pass something the President will sign regarding the debt ceiling or Medicare.
Of course, I could be wrong. The last time Congress was unable to pass a bill regarding the debt ceiling, the government temporarily shut down. I would expect the Republican leaders of the House and Senate will want to avoid that scenario a second time. Polls still indicate the Republican Party is held as responsible for that action and with the party controlling both halves of Congress, they likely would face blame again.
Still, if you watch the actions of the Republican Party, it seems like we are watching the slow scism of the party into a conservative / moderate wing and a tea party / conservative wing. The Senate seems reasonably united behind a conservative / moderate leader, but the House has a conservative leader being undermined by a tea party led side that would rather see his authority taken away. With the House seemingly operating under three parties, it is highly unlikely there will ever be a consensus on any of the three issues I have listed here, yet alone other measures to keep the government functioning.
March is going to be an interesting month (and I thought the drama in Greece was interesting in February).