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The House and Senate headed into the August recess with a legislative languor, but both chambers said they can point to some victories they can take back home as they look to position themselves ahead of the November elections.
Though they won’t be able to take a farm bill or disaster assistance home to drought-stricken farmers, several recent legislative deals have given many lawmakers fodder for the constituent town halls and election rallies they’ll undoubtedly be participating in.
Rep. Tom Cole said he was buoyed by the passage of a transportation bill, passage of legislation averting an increase in student loans and reauthorization of the national flood insurance program.
“A long-term transportation bill, that was a big win,” the Oklahoma Republican said. “I’ve got five colleges and universities [in my district], so the student loan win was a big win. I think flood insurance around the country, particularly in rural America; that was a big win. So there were some big things done.”
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) agreed. She pointed to a provision in the transportation bill, the Restore Act, which would send most of the fines from the 2010 BP oil spill to Gulf Coast states.
“It’s just a tremendous victory for the Gulf Coast,” Landrieu said.
A bipartisan push to get a package of tax extenders through the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday also fed a narrative that the parties could work together. Senators who do not even serve on the panel were touting parts of the bill, such as a wind energy tax credit that won plaudits from Colorado’s two Democratic Senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet.
The news that dominated last week — a bipartisan deal in principle on averting a government shutdown — let both parties leave on a less dysfunctional note, even as they continued to spar over routine legislative matters of a different stripe.
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), a moderate who is retiring at the end of the Congress in part over the highly partisan atmosphere, said that nothing has changed on the important issues since last August’s quarrel over raising the debt ceiling, which brought the nation to the brink of default.
“It’s just where we were a year ago,” Snowe said, conveying that the Senate is still in a standoff over deficit reduction despite all the efforts made to break the deadlock.