POLITICS
11/11/2011 06:33 pm ET Updated Jan 11, 2012

Congress Can't Get Act Together For Yacht Race Bill

Congress has already lost support from the 99 percent -- now they're inconveniencing the remaining one.

In a strange confluence of Congressional events, the House and Senate managed to bungle what should have been a quick, easy piece of legislation to allow foreign ships to sail on local waters for a major yacht race.

The race, America's Cup, will go on this weekend (set your tivos). But without the America's Cup Act, ships from abroad that are meant to sail alongside the racing yachts will have to be replaced by local vessels, at a high cost to the event organizer.

"We have some serious impediments to the race and we're definitely at a tremendous financial burden now that we've had to go to this plan B," America's Cup Spokeswoman Stephanie Martin said.

The bill is yet another casualty in a now-familiar pattern of gridlock for the 112th Congress. The House passed a bill, the Senate passed a bill -- but they can't settle their differences -- even on something so seemingly mundane. At issue are five much larger vessels, completely unrelated to the yacht race, that members of Congress added so they could be exempted from laws that require U.S. registration to sail in local waters.

The Senate passed a bill without waivers for those vessels, but the House added them back in. Now the bill is back with the Senate, where an anonymous senator placed a hold that prevents it from going for a vote.

Somehow, in the process, the bill managed to find its way into a much larger debate about Congress and job creation. The White House's Dan Pfeiffer tweeted disparagingly about the America's Cup Act earlier this month, when it passed through the House, mocking the idea that it was taken up at all.

"On the day the jobs report shows the need for more action on jobs, the House GOP passes the Americas Cup Act so US can host a sailing race," he tweeted.

The office of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor struck back, pointing out that the bill had been requested by Democrats and would create jobs.

The race organizers are making the same argument, saying the races bring business to hosting cities. And while the San Diego event will take place despite the lack of a law, Martin said the other two races, in Newport, R.I., and San Francisco, might not take place if the House and Senate do not come to an agreement.

"Looking forward, we really do need these legislative waivers," said Martin, "otherwise our Newport and San Francisco events are in jeopardy."

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