Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Home for the holidays

There will be no vacation for you, Congress, until you get your work done. That was the stern message from President Obama today. But it probably wasn’t his warning that pushed Democrats and Republicans to get back to serious negotiations to finish the year’s business. More likely, it was fear of voter backlash.

For the third time this year, Americans were hearing about the threat of a government shutdown because Democrats and Republicans could not strike a deal on some basic legislation –a spending bill needed to fund many government agencies beyond Friday. After a flurry of meetings on Capitol Hill, we received word that the deal was near.

Separate negotiations on the legislation to extend a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits also seemed to gather pace after days of distractions and setbacks. If the negotiators are successful, Congress’ work might all be done by the weekend.

 

And then lawmakers can go home for the holidays with their mission accomplished. But by taking the country to the brink once again, it would come as no surprise if they still got hit with some backlash back home.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

US lawmakers near deal to avert government shutdown

U.S. lawmakers on Thursday were close to a deal on a massive spending bill to keep the government running through the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30 and avert a shutdown when current funds run out at midnight on Friday.  Democratic aides in Congress told Reuters the potential deal was near but they did not provide details. If a compromise is reached, the full Senate and House of Representatives would have to vote on the measure before it could be signed into law by President Barack Obama, who earlier in the day urged prompt action.

Gingrich chides Obama for acting like a teenager with credit card

Extending unemployment benefits is this week’s battleground for Democrats versus Republicans. USA/NRA

Democrats look set to push the legislation through the Senate with the help of newcomer Carte Goodwin of West Virginia. They hope to show voters in an election year that they are the party responding to the plight of the unemployed.

Republicans had blocked the measure, demanding cuts elsewhere to pay for the $34 billion price tag and prevent it from adding to the U.S. budget deficit. They want to show voters that they are the party of fiscal restraint.

Bunning pitches fit, Republican team uncertain how to play it

Senator Jim Bunning has put his foot down. And his own Republican teammates are trying hard not to call a foul.

The former professional baseball player who is retiring from his Kentucky seat this year has basically decided this is where he draws the line. BASEBALL/

If we were to mix sports metaphors, Bunning has become a football lineman – a one-man blocking machine of legislation to renew jobless benefits, highway construction and other programs that expired on Sunday night. His reasoning is that until there is a definite way to pay for the bill, he does not want to add to the debt.