Don’t blink or you may miss it, but Congress is making a brief reappearance in the nation’s capital before knocking off until next year.
The House returned Monday but plans to go back home on Friday. The Senate came back Monday, and plans to stay in town for a decent interval until the leadership decides it’s OK for the senators to go home, too.
That means the two chambers will be in session simultaneously for only a week. It’s only important if the House and Senate enact something that they both need to agree on but in a year characterized by vigorous inaction that seems increasingly unlikely.
The House has been in session 142 days so far this year; the Senate, 142. In 2011, hardly a year characterized by hyperactivity, the House met for 175 days, the Senate for 170.
According to the congressional legislative tracking service Thomas, Congress has enacted only 52 new laws since January, and that is a good thing. In the same period, the previous Congress passed 284 laws, according to another tracking service, GovTrack.
And, oh yes, there’s the really important business of government. Republican budget negotiator Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma told ABC Sunday the most important priority “is getting a budget deal and making sure we don’t default when the debt ceiling comes around.”
Failure to act on either one could result in a government shutdown – as early as Jan. 15 when a measure temporarily extending government funding expires. Cole’s assessment is hopeful evidence that some common sense remains in Congress.
Blink, however, and you could have missed it.