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New Bill Would Force Congress To Stay In Washington Until It Passes A Budget

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Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

WASHINGTON -- New York Rep. Louise Slaughter, the senior Democrat on the House Rules Committee, introduced legislation Wednesday that would prevent Congress from skipping town for the holidays if the House fails to pass a budget agreement by mid-December.

The "No Budget, No Vacation" bill would hold lawmakers accountable for their pledge to reconcile the vastly different House and Senate budgets by Dec. 13, which was one of the key components of last month's deal to end the 16-day shutdown of the federal government. Since then, members of the Budget Conference Committee, led by the House and Senate budget chairs, have twice convened publicly, but there's been little indication that they're headed for a breakthrough.

Democrats will thus attach a vote on Slaughter's resolution to a procedural motion known as "the previous question" on Wednesday. The maneuver is one of the few ways in which the minority in the House can attempt to take control of the floor briefly away from the majority, but it's unlikely to succeed because it would need Republican votes.

Democrats are hopeful, however, that the vote will be tricky for Republicans amid reports that House GOP leaders are done legislating for the remainder of the year and have distributed a blank agenda for 2014 to their members. In a press release, Slaughter cites such articles and points out that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reportedly joked in a private meeting with Republicans that the House shouldn’t even remain in session in December.

"This Republican House has redefined the term unproductive by setting records for futility with its glacial legislative pace and then shutting down the government when they don’t get their way," Slaughter said. "Now, after this dismal record, the Majority is planning to go on a vacation before fulfilling our most basic role to fund the government. It is time to stop governing crisis–to-crisis and finally give the American people and American businesses the certainty that comes with passing a federal budget. No budget, no vacation."

Slaughter voiced similar frustration over the lack of legislative action in the House on Tuesday when a second vote series was canceled. "Oh did we work too hard today?" she quipped, according to BuzzFeed's Kate Nocera.

As The Huffington Post reported earlier this year, the 113th Congress is on track to be the least productive in modern history, a tough record to beat given the 112th Congress was already the least productive since the 1940s. Boehner has called such reports "total nonsense," and said the American public would like to see Congress repeal laws rather than simply pass them.

But the House GOP has been scrutinized for stalling on comprehensive immigration reform and failing to pass spending bills at the levels set by Republican appropriators.

In terms of a budget agreement, Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the House Budget Chair, have ruled out any budget deal that includes new tax increases. Democrats have maintained that the federal budget cuts known as sequestration must be replaced with a combination of tax revenues and targeted spending cuts, setting up a possible stalemate ahead of the mid-December deadline.

Boehner nonetheless expressed optimism Tuesday that both sides could agree on a spending level for 2014, a day after top Republican appropriators warned against keeping sequestration in place in a letter to Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

"It’s important that we do appropriations bills here to fund the government," he said at a press conference. "The idea that we should operate under what are called continuing resolutions is a poor way to do business."

Read the 'No Budget, No Vacation' bill below: Resolution: No Budget, No Vacation

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