, Salem, MA


December 17, 2012

The new normal? Millions wait for Congress to act


Both parties want to cut back the program, but Democrats have proposed cutting far less than Republicans have.

Farmers’ and ranchers’ groups are confident that Congress will act on the farm bill eventually, perhaps next year. In the meantime, they decry the uncertainty, which makes it tough to plan.


Both houses of Congress have passed versions of legislation spelling out changes in defense policy, but nothing is final until negotiators and then both chambers agree on a single bill. An agreement could come this week.

One major disagreement involves Iran. The Senate takes a tougher line, listing action that can be taken against Iran. The House bill is more general, urging “all necessary measures” should Iran issue a nuclear threat against the U.S. or its allies.

Disaster relief

The White House is seeking $60.4 billion to help victims of October’s Hurricane Sandy. Though Senate debate will proceed this week, the timing of any final action remains uncertain.

The measure has powerful champions in both parties, notably Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican. Christie joined New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, in a joint statement praising the initiative.

Such legislation used to pass almost automatically. In recent years, conservative Republicans have demanded spending reductions elsewhere to pay for the aid.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., was sympathetic.

But, he said, “it is also our responsibility during these tight budget times to make sure that the victims of this storm are getting the most of every single recovery dollar, and to ensure that disaster funds are timed and targeted in the most efficient and appropriate manner.”

Jobless benefits

What used to be automatic — providing additional aid to the long-term unemployed — has become a struggle.

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