Solyndra went bankrupt last year after receiving a loan guarantee from the Obama administration, even as some White House aides raised red flags. The California company’s failure left taxpayers on the hook for $500 million.
But after a full five-day workweek, House members could be leaving the Capitol by Friday evening to return to their districts to campaign. At most, they’ll return the following week. The Senate also is likely to have a shortened September schedule.
What may be most noteworthy then about the abbreviated pre-election session is not what Congress is doing but the stack of must-do work that lawmakers are leaving unfinished until a post-election lame-duck session.
Topping the list is the expiration of the full menu of George W. Bush-era tax cuts on Dec. 31. The resulting tax increases, when combined with more than $100 billion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect at the same time, have become known as the “fiscal cliff.” Economists warn that unless Congress acts, the one-two austerity punch would send the fragile economy back into recession.
The automatic cuts are punishment for the inability of last year’s deficit-reduction “supercommittee” to strike a bargain to cut 10-year deficits by at least $1.2 trillion as promised by last summer’s debt and budget pact. The Bush tax cuts were originally set to expire at the end of 2010 but were renewed two years ago. President Obama promises to raise the top tax rate on upper-bracket earners back to the Bill Clinton-era level of 39.6 percent, up from 35 percent.
Other pressing issues for the lame-duck session include averting an almost 30 percent cut in doctors’ Medicare fees, the food and farm bill, passing the annual Pentagon policy bill, a Russia free-trade bill and legislation to overhaul the U.S. Postal Service, which is losing $25 million a day. Congressional inaction would mean that the Postal Service would default on a $5.5 billion payment into its pension fund that’s due at the end of the month.
— Associated Press