How Much Will the Punch Line to This Joke Hurt?

The old joke, although some are not laughing too loudly, if at all, these days, is that democracy is safe when our elected reps and senators are away from Washington.

No joke because many actions in the capital have been, to put it mildly, counterproductive to employers and employees having the ability to succeed. No joke because there are so many issues that need to be addressed in a positive fashion.

The Chamber warned through several venues last week that lawmakers, just back from their extended August recess, were ready to hit the campaign trail once again. That seems to be the case, with this report from CQ Politics

Congressional leaders had a lengthy set of priorities for September, including a defense authorization bill, an immigration measure, food safety legislation, expiring tax policy extensions and fiscal 2011 appropriations. Rank-and-file Democrats and Republicans in both chambers angled for action on additional bills dealing with energy issues, stem cell research and proposals to boost the stagnant economy.

And House Democratic leaders said they were ready to take up anything the Senate passed.

But by the end of last week, Democratic leaders had punted all those issues until after the Nov. 2 elections, setting the stage for a possible pre-election recess as early as Oct. 1. The only items left on the to-do list were a small-business tax and lending package and a stopgap appropriations measure — known as a continuing resolution, or CR — to keep the government running until lawmakers return in mid-November.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , D-Nev., said that completion of the $725.7 billion fiscal 2011 defense authorization bill would have to wait until after the elections. Republicans had signaled they would block the bill from even coming to the floor because they have not been allowed votes on their priorities.

Reid additionally put off action on the food safety measure until the November lame-duck session. “We are very limited in the time we have before the election,” he said.

Democrats have said they only hope to “debate” before the elections an extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts that expire at the end of the year.

With the Senate gridlocked, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has based her chamber’s agenda on what the other body can pass.