Now is the time for a lame-duck Congress to actually get something done.
There's a lot of work to do before the next Congress is seated in January. Some of it, the "big issue" items, which were part of the November election campaigns, should be held until the winners of that election are seated.
But there's still a lot to do.
The Farm Bill is stalled, including price supports for milk. If those supports expire, the price of milk will just about double. Furthermore, this is the time of year farmers start planning for next year's crops. They can plan a lot better if they know what the government is going to do with agricultural policy.
Most of the spending bills (at least nine of the 11 major ones) have yet to be approved. Congress still can't seem to pass a budget and we're already seven weeks into the new fiscal year. We're still living on "continuing resolutions," which means using the old budget. In fact, we've been doing that throughout the Obama administration. Functionally, the "base" budget for the United States was last created during the Bush administration.
The military appropriations and any definite policy are still up in the air.
There are still some "fiscal cliffs" looming just after the first of the year that could cause major economic problems if they aren't addressed now.
There's a huge backlog of basic "pay the bills" legislation that even if Congress started working together they'd be hard pressed to finish by the end of the year. But they have got to try.
One of the problems is how entrenched the parties have been at balking each other's moves -- Democrats standing united against Republican in the House, and Republicans standing united against Democrats in the Senate.
The end result has been that both parties, unable to find someone from the other side of the aisle to help them pass legislation, have been forced to rely almost exclusively on their own parties to get bills through the House or Senate. That means they've had to make concessions not toward moderation, not toward finding a middle ground that will pull someone over from the other party, but rather with the radical wings of their own parties. Even with the change in control of the Senate, the margins of control are not so great in either house that that problem won't continue. Both sides still need to learn to get along with each other for the government to become functional again.
Now would be a good time to start trying -- with some of the time-critical but less controversial legislation.
Baby steps. Baby steps. But start now.
-- Kelly Everitt