Like schoolchildren gazing out the window on a sunny June day, Congress can’t wait for that final bell to ring. But lawmakers still need to hand in a final term paper before they can skip out the door. Instead, they’re asking the teacher for an extension.
Before lawmakers head home on Wednesday or Thursday to campaign for reelection, they must pass a temporary spending bill to make sure the government can keep its lights on for the next several months.
Beyond all the speechifying, the basic job of Congress each year is to pass 12 spending bills that cover government operations for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. Each year, pretty much, they get the job done several months late. That plays havoc with federal agencies, which must continue to operate on last year’s budget while implementing this year’s operations.
This year in Congress has been even more dysfunctional than usual. The House has only approved two of the 12 spending bills, and the Senate hasn’t approved any. Lawmakers could roll them all into one unwieldy “omnibus” bill when they return for a lame-duck session in November, but that work could easily slip into the new year.
Lawmakers may get an extension on that term paper, but they’ll have to hand it in eventually. And it won’t be any easier to write it in December than September.