Congress Wastes its Time on Wedge Issues; Fiscal Cliff, Farm Bill Loom.

Congress focuses energy on controversial committee hearings and votes over real issues.

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Congress is back in session for the next 10 days and the American people's honey-do list is long.

But against the backdrop of a stalled farm bill, no budget for the next fiscal year and looming across-the-board cuts to key government agencies, lawmakers have instead scheduled a series of hot-button hearings and votes making this short session more about votes than the voters.

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This week, the House will kick off its 10 days in session by bringing attention to the most controversial Obama administration policies. The Oversight and Government Reform Committee will once again focus on the Justice Department's botched gun-walking scandal Operation Fast and Furious. And the House Judiciary Committee will spend a few hours Wednesday addressing "The Obama Administration's Abuse of Power." The House will also vote on the "No More Solyndra Act" this week, which would slowly eradicate the Department of Energy's $47 billion loan guarantee program targeted at supporting green energy companies like the bankrupt solar panel manufacturer Solyndra.

"This week, House Republicans continue to waste time on political show votes instead of addressing our nation's most pressing challenges." House Minority Whip Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer said in a statement. "Congress should be focused on taking up a comprehensive jobs plan, extending tax cuts for middle class families, providing drought relief, and taking serious action to address the approaching fiscal cliff, yet once again House Republicans' Do Nothing Congress is focused on the wrong priorities."

On the other side of Capitol Hill, the Senate will spend its week on the veterans jobs corps bill, which would encourage local governments to hire veterans for public sector jobs like firefighters and police officers.

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But the Senate isn't without its own wedge issue grandstanding.

Lawmakers there will dedicate time this week to further scrutinize the General Services Administration, the federal agency that blew $840,616 on a raucous convention party in Las Vegas, which included a $75,000 bike-building exercise, a mind reader, a clown, and expensive convention souvenirs. The Senate Judiciary Committee will also hold a hearing on what they believe are Republican attempts to suppress minority voters.

Democratic leadership in the Senate will also place the spotlight back on women as it reconsiders the Paycheck Fairness Act, which they say would make it easier for women to address pay discrimination in the work place.

Experts agree each party is picking its schedule based off of what they can campaign on. It's the last chance for lawmakers to position themselves on these hot election-year issues before they return home to campaign. [DCCC Director Doesn't See a "Wave" for the House.]

"I am hard pressed to find another Congress in recent memory that has really stumbled along the way this Congress has," Brookings Institution fellow Sarah Binder says. "This close to the election no one wants to be taking tough votes. They will take some votes that bolster the party's reputation with their constituencies."

The only legislation that is likely to come out of the next two week, however, cannot be ignored.

Both Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate are expected to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government at the current level to prevent a government shutdown after Sept. 30.

"This is one area where doing nothing is off the table," Binder says.

Lauren Fox writes about Congress for U.S. News and World Report. You can reach her at or follow her on twitter @foxreports.