With only 14 working days left before the nation's lawmakers adjourn to seek re-election, Congress is in danger of falling on its face. That's what can happen if the lawmakers generate issues to fight over during the election campaign rather than a record of accomplishment on which to run.
Yet congressional leaders show little sense of urgency, with the House taking Mondays off so its members can stay in their districts to campaign. The practice could easily feed the anti-incumbent fever now sweeping the country unless Congress acts more rapidly in the next few days than it has done so far.Of the many bills awaiting action, none is more urgent than the six major appropriations bills still pending, including the one funding defense. Unless these measures are cleared quickly, government agencies will run out of money in less than a month.
Also awaiting action are emergency aid for hurricane victims in Florida and Louisiana, loan guarantees for Israel, more aid to secondary schools, an aid package for the former Soviet republics, aid to cities in response to the Los Angeles riots, regulation of cable TV, product liability reform, incremental changes in health-care insurance, streamlined licensing for nuclear power plant and natural gas pipelines, urban enterprise zones, greater tax breaks for individual retirement accounts - and that's only a partial list.
Congress needs to hurry because perhaps a third of the House and many members of the Senate won't be back next year. If the next session doesn't act more expeditiously than the present one, few voters would be disappointed if Congress were permanently turned into a revolving door.