What Congress did and didn't do in its final week

AP News
Posted: Sep 22, 2012 1:20 PM
What Congress did and didn't do in its final week

The 112th Congress has been one of the least productive in recent history. A look at what Congress has accomplished and left undone in its final week before leaving for the election campaign:



—Congress early Saturday completed its major task for the week with Senate passage of a six-month stopgap spending bill to keep federal agencies running past the end of the budget year and the elections. The House approved the legislation last week. Action was needed before the budget year ends on Sept. 30 to avoid a partial government shutdown.

—The House passed a package of measures to promote increased coal production and ease environmental restrictions imposed on coal by the Obama administration. The bill is unlikely to be taken up in the Senate.

—The House moved to rescind guidelines introduced by the Health and Human Services Department giving states more flexibility in how they administer welfare-to-work requirements under the 1996 welfare overhaul act. Republicans say the guidelines are an attempt to undermine work requirements. The bill has little chance in the Senate.

—The House Ethics Committee said it won't charge Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., on allegations that she violated ethics rules by steering federal bailout money to a bank where her husband owned stock.

—The Senate approved a resolution insisting that the United States will do all it can to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.


Major legislation left for the lame-duck session in November:

—Congress has yet to deal with the tax cuts that will expire at the end of the year, including the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, tax cuts for middle-class households, tax credits for businesses and the payroll tax cut.

—Congress must still decide what to do about spending cuts of $109 billion to defense and non-defense programs that will take place automatically at the start of the new year if alternatives are not found.

—Congress faces a Jan. 1 deadline to avert an almost 30 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements to doctors.

—The current five-year farm and nutrition bill, which sets policy for farm safety net programs and funds the food stamp program, expires Sept. 30. The Senate passed a new five-year bill in June and the House Agriculture Committee approved its version in July, but the full House has yet to act. The two chambers also have not been able to agree on disaster relief for farmers hit by the drought.

—The Senate has passed legislation to overhaul the Postal Service, which is losing $25 million a day, but the House has yet to act.

—Russia joined the World Trade Organization in August, but Congress has yet to vote on legislation to remove Cold War trading restrictions so U.S. businesses can enjoy the lower tariffs and greater protections that come with WTO membership.

—The House in May passed a $635 billion defense policy bill, but the full Senate has yet to act.

—The Senate last summer was unable to advance legislation to protect U.S. industries from cyber-attacks.

—The Senate and House have passed legislation to extend and expand the Violence Against Women Act, but no agreement has been reached.