Congress, With Much to Do, Splits for 5 Weeks’ Vacation

After a final day of partisan battles that prevented action on a massive relief package for drought-striken farmers and on protecting the nation from cyberattacks, Congress has left for five weeks of vacation, facing a fall fraught with decisions on the political and economic future of the country.

Most lawmakers were headed home to make their party’s case for who should be entitled to tax cuts, how the government should avoid automatic cuts to defense and domestic programs and who should be the next president. Many will drop by the Republican and Democratic presidential conventions in Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., respectively. .

The last day, Thursday, saw lawmakers fall short in finding agreement on two pressing problems: how to help livestock producers suffering from the widespread drought and how to protect critical industries from cyberattacks launched by terrorists or other enemies. The GOP-led House narrowly approved a bill that would revive expired disaster relief programs for cattle and sheep farmers who have seen the price of feed soar because of drought damage to corn and other crops. But the Senate, controlled by Democrats, sidestepped action on the bill, saying that it was insufficient and that the House should instead consider a comprehensive five-year farm policy bill that the Senate passed in June.

The Senate also reached an impasse on legislation to bring the government and businesses together to protect the nation’s infrastructure from cyberattacks. The main stumbling block was the role the Homeland Security Department and other federal agencies should play in protecting U.S. businesses. Republicans blocked further consideration of the Senate bill, supported by the White House, saying it would lead to Washington imposing a heavy hand on the private sector without substantially reducing risks. Both parties said they were committed to approving a final bill when they return in September, although bridging differences in their approaches will not be easy   Read More…

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