Congress Returns, But Won't Likely Do Much To Undo Sequester | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Congress Returns, But Won't Likely Do Much To Undo Sequester

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As Congress resumes today after its month long break there are a lot of pressing issues facing lawmakers, all of which have a big impact on the economy in the region.

A handful of local lawmakers were some of the loudest voices calling for Congress to forego its August break and get serious negotiations underway on budget issues. That didn't happen, as lawmakers fanned out across the country, vacationing a tad while also pressing a lot of flesh with voters.

Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine says Republicans' refusal to even begin budget negotiations has left federal agencies, contractors, and businesses in the region reeling from uncertainty.

"We're not going to be able to solve sequester or anything if people are unwilling to talk. The Senate, we have a budget; we want the House to just sit down with us and start trying to find a compromise," he says.

While lawmakers in both parties are increasingly voicing frustration over the budget caps in place from sequestration, it doesn't look like the debate has changed at all on Capitol Hill. Virginia Republican Congressman Morgan Griffith says the ball is in the White House's court.

"Well, sequestration is going to be the law of the land until the president is willing to come up with cuts... in exchange for, in lieu of sequestration. That's a deal he made in August 2011. And it's hard to get him to keep deals, so that deal is set," he says.

Lawmakers have until September 30 to work out a new spending deal or else the federal government will shut down. It's increasingly looking like they'll just punt once again and pass a short-term funding bill that keeps sequestration in place. Griffith recognizes even passing that won't be easy, with just nine legislative days slated for all of September.

"Dealing with the Continuing Resolution or funding the government  absolutely, it's going to be a big burden for us to try to tackle in September. And with religious holidays knocking out a big chunk of our time, the time is not as great as we might like," he says.

Lawmakers also need to raise the debt ceiling by about mid-October or else the nation risks defaulting, which could cripple local and state economies in the region. Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran says he fears Republicans aren't going to negotiate in good faith.

"When you've got a speaker who says, 'Judge us by the bills we repeal, not those we pass,' well, that's a pretty good indication. They have no interest in building up this country and improving it and meeting its challenges," he says.

One can only hope the nation's lawmakers got some rest in August, because they re going to need lots of energy now that the Syria debate has been stacked on top of an already overflowing plate.

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