Delay becomes norm for U.S. government

Jan 23, 2013, 4:02 PM EST
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and the House GOP leadership speak to reporters after a closed-door meeting.
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Congress often gives itself more breathing room. In other words, it kicks the can down the road.

It's an overused expression nearly everybody scoffs at or denounces. Yet lots of cans litter the road ahead.

The House on Wednesday voted to delay a looming showdown over the government's debt ceiling until May.

"It's not perfect. But perfect may not get passed in this House," said House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas.

Congress and President Barack Obama barely avoided a New Years' Day "fiscal cliff" of mandatory tax increases and spending cuts by scrapping most of the tax hikes and putting off a decision on the spending cuts until March.

The Senate is now weighing a Democratic proposal to put limits on the use of filibusters to delay votes or nominations. Republicans have used the potent tactic to block many Democratic measures — as Democrats did themselves when they were in the minority

"Some have suggested that one's view of the filibuster depends on where one sits," says Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Not only Congress delays things.

Obama last January postponed until after the election acting on a Canada-U.S. oil pipeline opposed by environmentalists. A decision is still pending.

Sometimes there are valid reasons for delay.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave long-awaited testimony on Capitol Hill on the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, raid on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. She was to appear last month, but illness forced the postponement.

"We have to recognize we're in for a long-term struggle here," Clinton told senators, referring to that volatile part of the world.

The Senate hasn't passed an annual budget in four years.

So House Republicans have proposed withholding pay for either House or Senate members if their respective chamber fails to pass a budget plan.

They're attaching it to the legislation to delay the debt limit.


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