It tops Congress’s agenda, now colored by lawmakers’ preelection calculus.
Mary Knox Merrill/The Chrsitian Science Monitor
In a sprint toward November elections, Congress is planning votes on hot-button issues from energy and the economy to equal pay for women, but with slim prospect that any of them will become law.
In election season, every vote is grist for a 30-second campaign ad, and the last weeks before the October recess are shaping up as a marathon for symbolic votes.
At the same time, the spending bills to fund the 2009 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, are unfinished or barely started. Even a resolution to continue government funding into a new administration is expected to be a highly charged vote, because it is the probable vehicle for extending a ban on offshore drilling, now set to expire on Sept. 30.
“For a legislator to go to Capitol Hill and try to remove the sounds and sights of Denver and Minneapolis is impossible,” adds, referring to the parties’ national conventions in those host cities. “All of the votes are calculated in terms of how they will affect Barack Obama, John McCain, and the congressional races.”
A vote could come as early as this week over whether to lift a ban on oil and gas drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. The ban has been renewed every year since 1981 as part of the annual appropriations process. During the August recess, Republicans held 25 protests on a darkened House floor to urge Democrats to call the House back into session for an up-or-down vote on an energy bill, including a vote on more access to offshore-energy reserves.