- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The GOP-led House is currently holding up several major reform bills that sailed through the Senate earlier this year, but the third-highest-ranking Republican insisted Wednesday that out of the two chambers, his is the only one doing its job.

The House struggled to pass a highway bill in the spring and GOP leaders haven’t indicated whether they’ll take action on a five-year farm bill that is set to expire at the end of September. And the chamber still hasn’t passed a financial plan to stabilize the struggling U.S. Postal Service, allowing the agency to default this week for the first time ever.

But Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy said that in the two years since Republicans took control of the House, they have made the legislative process more transparent by passing smaller bills instead of massive omnibus legislation — a frequent practice of Democrats when they controlled both chambers.

And the California Republican pointed out that the House passed a budget this year, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to bring one to the floor, saying it was unnecessary since Congress had already set spending levels in last summer’s deal to raise the debt ceiling.

“When you talk about the House, I see great improvement and I see more improvement for us to do,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters.

But Mr. McCarthy said he doesn’t know when the House will pass a postal reform bill, adding that he “hopes” it will get done before the election. And he said House lawmakers will “find a way” to send a farm bill into conference negotiations after they return from the August recess, but can’t guarantee it will be finished before the current farm legislation expires.

“I always have goals,” he said.

With public approval of Congress at record lows, both Democrats and Republicans are accustomed to answering charges that they’re not doing their jobs — and typically blame each other for the gridlock.

Congress has failed to pass even the annual spending bills that keep the government running over the last few years, instead reaching short-term spending deals that are often thrown together at the last minute. Mr. Reid and House Speaker John Boehner announced the latest deal on Tuesday, saying they’ve hammered out a six-month agreement that will avert a government shutdown through the November election and New Year’s Day.

While the deal doesn’t resolve a number of other pressing issues Congress must address before the end of the year, Mr. McCarthy said it will take at least one task off lawmakers’ plates during the lame duck session.

“We’ve got a lot of looming things before us from tax increases coming, to sequestration, there could be another debt limit. … This could all hinge into the lame duck scenario,” Mr. McCarthy said. “You could have a new presidency, new Congress, new Senate. Six months gives a little longer time.”

One of the battles is brewing over how to avoid $1 trillion in spending cuts scheduled to take place next year, after a bipartisan “super committee” failed to agree last fall on enough cuts on their own under the 2011 debt ceiling deal House Republicans struck with the White House.

Now Republicans are trying to find a way around the military cuts, while Democrats don’t want to allow the cuts to domestic spending to go forward.

Even though his party’s leaders agreed to the Pentagon cuts, Mr. McCarthy said it’s now their “responsibility” to find other options.

“It’s never been my belief that the power rests with the super committee,” he said. “The goal was to find the cuts, so if they didn’t in the super committee that doesn’t not mean Congress can’t find the cuts as well.”

Nor did Mr. McCarthy give any hint that he and the other Republican leaders will budge on another fight likely to take place in December. With the Bush-era tax cuts set to expire next year, Republicans say they’ll only support extending all of them, while President Obama and Democrats want to extend the cuts only for earners under $250,000.

But Democrats voted to extend all of the cuts in December 2010 when they controlled both chambers of Congress and Mr. Obama signed the bill, saying it was a bad idea to raise taxes during the economic recession.

“If the president said two years ago it’s wrong, why is it right now?” Mr. McCarthy said.

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