Recently, President Obama talked about the need for stability in Washington. I trust he wasn’t talking about the Washington Monument and National Cathedral, both of which became a little wobbly after the earthquake.
I’m pretty sure he was talking about the need for Congress to take care of routine business, like passing budgets and appropriations bills, reauthorizing certain laws like the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), generally not terrorizing the world over not raising the debt limit, things like that. And indeed those would be good and positive steps for a Congress that until late couldn’t seem to get its house (or Senate) in order.
And perhaps Congress already got the message. After completing a two year budget plan late last year, Congress seems on track to move a FY 2014 spending bill and begin work on the FY 2015 appropriations bills soon after. A farm bill seems much more likely now than at mid-summer last year, and even a long awaited WIA reauthorization could reach the Senate floor by Spring.
Of course, the 2014 midterm elections loom like an ominous electoral storm cloud threatening to rain down more partisan bickering the closer we get to November. But for now we seem to be basking in the warm glow of a Congress that seems for the moment to have found a way to get some things done.
And despite a difficult fight over paying for extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed, Congress has dispensed with usual inflammatory rhetoric that would doom a legislative proposal. While the bill is far from done deal—even after a surprise vote in the Senate to advance it—both sides are talking and examining options.
So as we head into the New Year, let’s hope that the political climate remains stable even if the coming elections forecast a stormier end of the year.