July 31, 2014

Congress is stuck, according to Nebraska Congressman (AUDIO)

A Nebraska Congressman says Congress is stuck, even as it has a great deal of work to do.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry says the congressional process has been stuck for months, preventing action on a host of issues.

“It’s a very fractured way to deal with this and I’m afraid again sets up another dramatic conclusion in the 11th hour that is not the right way to do policy,” Fortenberry tells Nebraska Radio Network.

A compromise reached on student loans might be the exception that proves the rule.

Congress failed to prevent an increase in the interest rate college students pay on their loans from going into effect. Congress did finally settle on a compromise that tied student loan interest rates to the market, bringing rates back down.

No such compromise saved the Farm Bill.

The Senate approved legislation that retained government subsidies for specialized crops grown in the South and cut only $4 billion from the growing food stamp program, but it did pass a bill. The House couldn’t get that done; at least it couldn’t pass a whole bill.

When the Farm Bill submitted by the Agriculture Committee failed to get enough votes in the House due to a lingering dispute over proposed cuts to the food stamp program, Republican leaders opted to push through a bill without the nutrition program, which make up 80% of the legislation.

It is uncertain how Congress moves forward with each chamber approving such drastically different bills.

Also uncertain is how the federal government will be funded in the next fiscal year, which begins October 1st.

Congress returns from the August break with three weeks remaining in the current fiscal year.

We asked Fortenberry if there will be enough time once Congress returns to Washington to get a budget passed to fund the government when the federal fiscal year begins.

“Probably not and so you will end up with short-term extensions to keep the government going while the longer term appropriation and budgetary process is reconciled. That’s probably the best we do.”

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]