Just the Facts

Five Facts on Key Issues Congress has Failed to Address

By No Labels
August 6, 2018 | Blog

Few organizations are as unpopular as the U.S. Congress — the most recent poll revealed an approval rating of just 17%.  Perhaps the most important factor in the legislative branch’s extreme unpopularity has been its inability to address issues that American’s care about.  Congress has several items on its 2018 to-do list—including immigration, revisions to the food stamp program and several must-pass spending bills—but it is showing little urgency to get them done. That is why proposals such as the House Problem Solvers Caucus’ Break the Gridlock package, which attempts to promote bipartisanship in Congress, are so important to the health of our nation.  Here are five facts on key issues Congress has yet to address.

It has been five months since the president’s self-imposed March 5 deadline for passing legislation regarding the DACA program, but no bill has passed

After the House failed to pass an immigration compromise bill in June, the status of the DACA program and its 690,000 recipients (aka “DREAMers) remains in limbo. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has failed to meet a court-ordered deadline to reunite the families of all 2,551 children who were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. Ultimately, while Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has remained open to pursuing a narrow immigration bill to forge a long-term solution on the family separation issue, it is unlikely the House will revisit DACA or border security during the current Congress.

With time running out, Congress has yet to pass an omnibus spending bill

In March of 2018, Congress approved a $1.3 trillion spending bill to keep the government running until the deadline for the next spending bill, September 30, 2018. When the House comes back into session after August recess, there will only be nine legislative days remaining before the deadline.  To complicate matters, President Trump has threatened a government shutdown if Congress does not provide more funding for border security in September.

While the House of Representatives approved sanctions on Russia for its 2016 election interference with an overwhelming bipartisan majority in July 2017, they have yet to address new revelations, such as the indictment of 12 Russians for election interference

In July, shortly following Special Counsel Mueller’s indictments, President Trump held a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.  The meeting was met with harsh criticism from both parties as President Trump did not hold President Putin to account during their press conference for previous Russian election interference.  In response, Speaker Ryan unequivocally stated, “Russia did meddle with our elections” and confirmed that he would be “more than happy” to consider placing additional sanctions on Russia.  However, the House has yet to take any substantive steps to further punish Russia.

Congress is still working on establishing stronger procedures for managing sexual harassment on Capitol Hill

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, allegations of sexual assault have poured in from staff members and interns from both House and Senate offices. In November 2017, Rep. Jackie Spierer (D-CA) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced The Member and Employee Training and Oversight on Congress Act. The legislation was meant to improve existing enforcement mechanisms put in place over 20 years ago.  The Senate’s bill was passed in May but includes much less oversight than the House bill, which was passed in February. Currently, negotiations between the House and Senate are deadlocked, and it is unclear if a compromise will be reached.

With the current Farm Bill due to expire at the end of September, Congress does not appear close to passing an updated version

The Farm Bill, which is set to expire in September, is important as it sets agricultural policies, provides a financial safety net for American farmers, and supplies nutritional assistance for low-income Americans. The problem is that the Senate’s bipartisan bill differs in key areas from the House version, which was passed along strict party lines, thus making it difficult to reconcile the two. An important difference between the two bills was that the House version adds work requirements as a factor in determining SNAP (aka food stamp) eligibility. Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) explained that with time running out “if we’re not able to reach an agreement early in September … .The likelihood is that [Congress] will provide a one-year extension [to the current version of the Farm Bill].”

 

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