POLITICS

Congress misses deadlines on budget and help for Puerto Rico and Zika virus

In this April 13, 2016, file photo House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., pauses during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Debt-ridden Puerto Rico faces a $422 million bond payment deadline May 1 with no sign Congress will act in time to help. Further complicating lawmakers efforts to steer the U.S. territory away from economic collapse are ads airing nationwide that claim the legislation amounts to a financial bailout even though the bill has no direct financial aid. House conservatives have latched onto that argument, making it difficult for Ryan, to garner support for the bill.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

In this April 13, 2016, file photo House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., pauses during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Debt-ridden Puerto Rico faces a $422 million bond payment deadline May 1 with no sign Congress will act in time to help. Further complicating lawmakers efforts to steer the U.S. territory away from economic collapse are ads airing nationwide that claim the legislation amounts to a financial bailout even though the bill has no direct financial aid. House conservatives have latched onto that argument, making it difficult for Ryan, to garner support for the bill. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)  (Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistribu)

Congress accomplished relatively little in a short work period, missing deadlines on the budget and on helping Puerto Rico with its financial crisis as lawmakers began a weeklong break.

They left behind few clues about how they would address must-do items such as finding money to counter the Zika virus and a second, even scarier July 1 deadline for averting a fiscal disaster in cash-strapped Puerto Rico.

Democrats called upon House leaders to modify this spring's three-weeks on, one-week off legislative schedule to keep working, as Puerto Rico hurtles toward a half-billion-dollar default on Sunday.

"It's very, very hard to get anything done if you are a drive-by Congress," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday. "We're barely here. And these deadlines are coming." Hours later, however, Democrats joined Republicans in sprinting for the Capitol's exits.

Over the past month, the Senate finally passed a major energy bill — the first in nearly a decade — and made progress on providing help for Flint, Michigan, which is grappling with a water contamination crisis from lead pipes. But an effort to revive the moribund process of passing more than $1 trillion worth of annual spending bills ran aground, while talks on a $1 billion-plus measure to fight Zika are looking less promising than previously hoped.

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