House May Bolt Early, Abandoning Work Schedule to Campaign Season



Just days after returning from a five-week break and with a mere 16 days before a new budget year begins, House lawmakers are mulling whether to bolt Washington a week earlier than planned so they can work on saving their own jobs.

Two House sources revealed to Fox News that the Democratic leadership is in talks to cut back the current legislative schedule by at least one week rather than work through the calendar that set a target adjournment of Oct. 8. Sources say top Republicans have already been told that the calendar movement is likely.

In a move that would let candidates go campaign ahead of the Nov. 2 midterm election but would mean deadlock on several percolating issues, lawmakers could depart after just 10 days in legislative session. 

If agreement is reached, an announcement would obviously come soon.

If the House does move toward an early recess, lawmakers would be very unlikely to get a deal on an extension of Bush-era tax cuts that are set to expire at year's end. Congressional members have been bickering over whether to allow hikes to take effect for singles grossing $200,000 a year or couples making $250,000.

Cutting out early would also mean leaving several other agenda items in limbo, including the annual appropriations bills.

On Monday, three leading House Republicans urged their respective committee chairmen to rein in government spending in the annual budget bills, due Sept. 30, and prevent current tax rates from increasing before a lame duck session would have to be scheduled after the congressional election.

"It is critical that legislators on both sides of the aisle come together and use what time remains in this Congress to enact legislation that removes these harmful barriers to private-sector job creation," wrote Republican Reps. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Dave Camp of Michigan and Jerry Lewis of California.

"Leaving town at the end of this month or early next month without acting on both of these priorities would send a grim signal to the American people that this Congress and the Obama administration are still not focused on the critical issue of jobs," reads the letter sent Monday to Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin, D-Mich., and Budget Committee chief John Spratt, D-S.C.

Responding to an inquiry about the schedule, the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said adjourning early would mean passing a "continuing resolution" to keep the government running at 2010 budget levels. That is the main topic in the conversation, according to the speaker's office.

House Democrats say they also want to do the tax cut extension before the election. 

On the Senate side, lawmakers have not announced plans to depart sooner than planned – currently early October -- though completion of its work would also be hampered by an inability to negotiate with House lawmakers.

President Obama has signaled he does not want an extension of the current tax rate for upper-level earners, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated he plans to bring forward a bill that echoes Obama's request. 

But whether Reid could reach the 60-vote hurdle depends on several Democratic senators who've suggested they could live with continued lower rates for the highest-income earners while the economy pursues recovery.

On Tuesday, several senators suggested a compromise on preventing tax increases could be in the works on their side of the Capitol, even if it wouldn't be finished up until a lame-duck session. The compromise mirrors House Republican suggestions for a two-year extension of the current tax rates for all brackets.