'May you live in interesting times' curse fulfilled
No, it's not really a Chinese curse, but it perfectly describes what's going to happen in Congress over the next two months.
Grab a chair: Congress is about to get as fascinating and powerful as it gets.
In the next two months, the most unpopular institution in America will decide the fates of a president's power, a military strike, defense contracts, the budget, health-care implementation, the Federal Reserve chairmanship, illegal immigrants, and all of us who would be hit by a debt default.
It will be bitter, ugly, extremely high stakes and in every case wildly unpredictable. "In 33 years, we've never come back from summer break with the number of very critical, important issues that we're going to confront over the next 90 to 120 days," House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told us. "It's an amazing time."
Based on talking to the smartest members and aides we know, Republicans and Democrats alike feel the Syria resolution would not pass today, even after party leaders endorsed it. Immigration reform looks dead for this year and probably next. They think the chances of defaulting on debt are low, but not as low as many think because conservatives are showing no signs of bending. And they see very little hope of any budget deal that allows for major changes to the sequestration cuts.
Hoyer said the glut has resulted from "our inability to resolve the issues. They don't go away -- they just back up." Top leadership aides in both parties -- and both chambers -- were generally glum as they walked us through their expectations for the fall. The best-case scenario: just muddling through without a catastrophe. The most fascinating drama to watch - again -- will be the GOP leadership versus its rank-and-file on virtually every major fight.
Here's a thumbnail view of what these Hill insiders think will happen:
Syria resolution: Will probably pass the Senate but could lose in the House.
Defense spending: Obama might include spending authority in with the vote on defense budget.
Government spending: With only 9 working days scheduled for September, a very short CR - perhaps a month or two - might be voted on.
Federal debt: It will probably be raised but not without a terrific fight.
Fed chairman: Summers in trouble with libs. Expect Obama to choose Yellen or a third candidate.
Immigration: Almost certainly dead - at least until 2017.
Obamacare: A vote to defund will go down to defeat, but other votes on, for example, adding a requirement that income and eligibility be verified for people getting benefits could draw considerable Dem support.
No lack of subjects for the blog over the next two months.