Congress returned from its August recess yesterday to a mountain of unfinished business. With 22 days remaining in the fiscal year, Congress plans to go all in and be in session for nine of them.
Nine days to:
- Avoid a government shut down by passing a FY 2014 budget;
- Address the federal debt limit or face a default on federal debt;
- Reach agreement on the farm bill which expires September 30th; and
As is often stated in ads for investment products, past results do not guarantee future performance. However, I think we can go out on a limb here and state that recent Congressional performance is a pretty good indication of how well this will go. And as Congress muddles through these high profile issues, other important issues could continue to be neglected.
A laundry list of important infrastructure related, science and research related, and math and science education related issues linger on the back burner. Some of them have been back there for many years. Reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), addressing the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, reauthorization of the nation’s research enterprise including both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), addressing Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics (STEM) educational programs, reauthorization in the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) and the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program (NWIRP) represents a partial list of issues Congress needs to address.
The last session of Congress, the 112th, was the most unproductive ever (or at least since 1948, when we started measuring these things). Eight months in, the 113th looks like it could be even worse (or better, depending on how you view what Washington should — or shouldn’t — be doing.) Twenty-two bills have been passed by Congress and sent to President Obama for his signature since Congress convened in January.
While this torrid pace of inactivity could well continue, ASCE will continue to press Congress on these issues. That message will be louder and more effective, if they hear from you too!