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Congress's dirty secret: behind scenes, it's working to fix problems

Much of what Congress does this summer will be pure political posturing. But behind the scenes, small groups of lawmakers are trying to chip away at the biggest fiscal issues.  


Sen. Max Baucus (D) of Montana is one of several senators working to make headway on reforming America's tax code during the summer session of Congress.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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When Congress returns from its July 4 break, the American people will actually be watching two institutions.

One set of votes and talking points will be about improving each party’s political fortunes come November.

The other, smaller, portion of the legislative branch’s time? That will be spent attempting the real heavy lifting Congress will have to do in the next year: dealing with $600 billion in federal spending cuts and tax increases slated to take place at year’s end.

The House has teed up two of the most important votes for Congress in its political, election-year best. First, Republicans will vote to repeal President Obama’s health-care reform law on July 11, marking the 31st such vote to repeal or defund at least part of the legislation and marking the second time House Republicans will have struck down the measure in its entirety.

Of course, this vote is as guaranteed to pass the House as it is to die in the Democrat-held Senate. So why do it at all?

“Look, the choice is very clear,” said House majority leader Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia when asked that question on "CBS This Morning" on Friday. “If you step back for a second, it's all about this election and whether this law is going to go forward or not.”

Next up is a vote to extend all of the Bush tax cuts, another election year wedge which has no chance of a showing in the Senate but will allow Republicans to maintain that they are the party of lower taxes. Mr. Obama favors extending the tax cuts only for those with incomes under $250,000 a year.


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