News / USA

Snowstorm Puts Capitol Hill Legislative Action on Ice



The second major snowstorm to hit Washington, D.C in less than a week  has buried legislative action on Capitol Hill, with the House of Representatives canceling its voting schedule for the week, and the Senate postponing hearings and votes set for Wednesday.  Plans by Democratic lawmakers to quickly pass a jobs creation bill appear to be on ice.   
The House of Representatives has adjourned until February 22, when Congress returns after what was originally planned as a week-long break next week for the President's Day holiday.  House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer said flight cancellations have made it difficult for House members to return from their home districts to snowbound Washington.  The weather also caused the House Oversight Committee to postpone a hearing looking into the Toyota gas pedal problems.

The Senate is currently set to meet again on Thursday, if members and staffers can make their way to the Capitol building amid total snow accumulation from both storms of around 120 centimeters in some areas around the city.  

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, had hoped to pass a jobs-creation bill this week ahead of next week's President's Day recess. But he acknowledged late Tuesday that votes in the Senate are unlikely this week, saying members are also having trouble getting planes in and out.

Fifteen senators missed votes on Tuesday, and Democrats would probably not have the votes they need to pass a jobs bill.  Reid has expressed hope that Republicans will support the jobs creation bill, with unemployment at 9.7 percent nationwide.  Speaking after a meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House Tuesday, Republican Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell said he is not sure yet because the jobs bill is not finished.

"The jobs package is a work in progress.  We want to make sure it is not just another stimulus bill that will not create any jobs, so it is just too early to tell what that package is going to look like.  And the weather is sort of interfering this week with our ability to do business as well," he said.

The severe weather is pushing back a packed congressional schedule that is already running behind because of the lengthy deliberations last year on sweeping health care reform legislation, which remains stalled.  At his bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders Tuesday, President Obama appealed to  members of both parties to work together to get things done, saying the jobs bill would be a good place to start.

"I think it it fair to say that the American people are frustrated with the lack of progress on some key issues, and although the parties are not going to agree on every single item there should be some areas where we can agree," he said.  "And we can get some things done even as we have vigorous debates on some of those issues that we don't agree on," said the president.

Speaking to reporters outside the White House Tuesday, Senate Minority leader McConnell said there are some issues both parties might be able to work together on, citing four the president mentioned his is State of the Union speech last month.

"He mentioned in the State of the Union his support for nuclear power, for offshore drilling, for clean coal technology and for trade agreements, presumably with Colombia, Panama and Korea, the ones that have been languishing now for a year-and-a-half or so, these are areas where I think that there could be pretty broad bipartisan support to go forward on a collaborative basis," he said.

Some lawmakers took the back-to-back snowstorms with a sense of humor.  Members from snowy states such as Alaska resolutely made their way into their offices on Monday, saying the weekend storm was not that bad.  South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint used the occasion to take a political shot at global warming advocate and former vice president Al Gore, writing on the social network site Twitter that it is going to keep snowing in (Washington) D.C. until Al Gore cries "uncle" [gives up.}

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