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Congress returns from summer break

Despite the looming "fiscal cliff" and an expiring farm bill, don't expect a lot of action on Capitol Hill when it returns from Summer Break this week.

A few years back, Congress designated September as National Pain Awareness month. But it looks like lawmakers will be oblivious to pain this September.

Congress comes back from its summer vacation today, but don't expect much action on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers will do the bare minimum as they wait for the outcome of the November elections, instead dodging agonizing decisions like how to avoid the fiscal cliff of expiring tax breaks and automatic spending cuts.

Harry Holzer teaches public policy at Georgetown. He says Congress will dawdle, perhaps even during its lame duck session after the election.

"So even once you’re in the lame duck the progress might be slow, until they get very close to the cliff," he said. "Or even after January first, when they start to drive over it."

There are a few things Congress needs to get done in the 13 days its in session before the election. The farm bill expires September 30.

"You’ve got a lot of people in farm areas who have tended in the past to vote Republican," said Norm Ornstein, a policy analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.

He noted that there are some political incentives for House Republicans. But, Ornstein says, Congress will probably just agree to short-term drought relief and drag its heels on a full-blown farm bill.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.
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