Absent Congress: With much to be done, members campaign instead

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Congress is continuing its inattention to the people's business during the short period that it is in session this week between its five-week summer vacation and its departure from Washington to resume campaigning.

The normal approach of a worker who is seeking to have his contract renewed by his employer is to show a visible burst of energy in doing his work and attract the favorable attention of the people who pay his salary -- in this case, the American people. That's why it is more astonishing than usual to see Congress not attacking the large stack of important, unfinished legislation on members' desks this fall.

The only major action taken so far is that the House of Representatives has postponed work on 12 appropriations bills until March. The Senate is likely to follow suit before it leaves town. Fortunately, the federal government will not shut down, as it otherwise would have on Sept. 30, since continuing resolutions have extended this year's levels of spending. The disgusting aspect of it is that voters are supposed to applaud Congress's non-action -- a decision to postpone rather than deal with a problem.

Remaining on the lawmakers' agenda, to be dealt with in the lame-duck session after the elections and before the end of the year, are some major bills. At that point, the cast of legislators voting on the proposals will include defeated members, retiring members and others who have just been reelected and thus will have nothing to fear from voters for another two years.

Still waiting to be addressed, for example, is the farm bill, in the face of the breath-taking drought which has hit farmers and ranchers in many states. There remains the cybersecurity bill, non-action which leaves the nation's electrical, communications and transportation networks at risk.

It would be worth the voters' time, when their lawmakers are back in their home districts seeking support, to ask them why they aren't in Washington doing their jobs. The other option is to dispense with their services at the ballot box on Nov. 6.

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