Playing out the clock

October 1, 2006 By    

As this article goes to print, Congress is winding down and Senators and Representatives are making plans to leave Washington to return to their congressional districts for the important November mid-term elections.

 Lisa Bontempo
Lisa Bontempo

The Republican leaders of the House and Senate continue to play to what they believe are their strengths – national security, counter terrorism and border protection issues.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has said Republicans will continue to highlight issues related to economic growth, fiscal discipline and energy. They continue to promote a measure allowing drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf as key to tackling high energy prices and are pushing a Homeland Security bill to be sent to the president before the election.

Congress also needs to pass 11 appropriation bills to fund the federal government for 2007. Especially in an election year, these must-pass annual bills can seem rather dull to the electorate and are often pushed to the last moment possible, as we are seeing this year. Funding of the federal government ends in October for fiscal year 2006.

Continuing resolutions are expected to fund the government at 2006 levels until after the election. Then, Congress is expected to return for a lame duck session. Much of the appropriations bills are expected to be finalized then – including the funding bill that includes the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program.

Republican leaders’ pre-election strategy to highlight national security and fiscal responsibility is no surprise. Democrats, meanwhile, continue to blame Republicans for a “do nothing” Congress.

Democrats have been trying to lead on security issues for months while they work to build on voter discontent with the Iraq war. They will call for a vote of no confidence on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) will call on President Bush to appoint a new defense secretary when the defense appropriations bill comes up.

Depending on what you read, anti-Republican sentiment is strong and growing in the electorate. The House changing to Democrat control after the elections is what political analysts have been predicting for most of the year.

According to political analyst Charlie Cook, “the political climate will be extremely hostile to Republican candidates, voter turnout will benefit Democratic candidates, and the advantages that the GOP usually has in national party spending will be significantly less than normal.”

In the House of Representatives, where every member is up for re-election, Democrats need to pick up just 15 seats to regain leadership. Cook’s most recent analyses of all the House races show 18 Republican seats as “toss-ups” and 16 GOP seats as “leaning” Republican.

Democrat control of the Senate, with a gain of six seats, may prove more difficult. One-third of the Senate is up for re-election, 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats and one independent.

Cook sees one Democratic Senate seat as a toss up, while six Democratic seats lean Democratic. However, he places six Republican held Senate seats in the toss up category and two Republican Senate seats in the lean category.

While Democrats and Republicans work to advantage themselves before elections, the propane industry is best served by weighing its local congressional elections carefully and voting for candidates who understand the marketplace and the burdens of regulation.

Barring any national emergencies, this 109th Congress should not be looked to for major legislative initiatives. For the next few months, the industry’s legislative focus is best spent determining what issue(s) will be the most important to put forth when the new Congress is sworn in for the 110th Congress in January.

That, and continuing to serve the public safely and efficiently, as always.

Comments are currently closed.