Compromise in Congress Very Unlikely

A Congressional decision will keep subsidized Stafford loan interest rates at 3.4 percent for one more year.
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It's a showdown Republicans are eager to have. "Working families and small business should not be saddled with the uncertainty of a looming tax increase as they attempt to invest and grow for the remainder of the year," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., wrote this spring in a memo to the rank and file.

More disclosure for political contributions generally enjoys public support in the polls, but Republican outside groups, more than Democratic ones, are awash in large donations from anonymous donors.

The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, calls the Democratic legislation a threat to the Constitution's guarantee of free speech. Its supporters "have a simple view: If the Supreme Court is no longer willing to limit the speech of those who oppose their agenda, they'll find other ways to do it," he said last month.

Nor is there much prospect for immediate compromise on a farm bill, meaning the likeliest outcome is a one-year or two-year extension of current programs that puts off difficult decisions over spending cuts.

Bipartisan legislation passed the Senate last month to cut $23 billion over a decade. The bill before the House Agriculture Committee would chop $35 billion.

Some conservatives want to slice more; other Republicans, as well as Democrats, prefer less. Several officials say It's unlikely the GOP leadership will permit the full House to vote on the bill with their own rank and file divided. That means deferring politically difficult decisions about food stamps, commodity programs and other accounts until after the election.

Lawmakers produced a short-term, one-year, solution last month to prevent an increase in interest rates on federal student loans for an estimated 7.4 million new borrowers. Another portion of the same bill pays for highway construction and other transportation programs for two years.

Its approval ended an unbroken string of nine short-term extensions dating back three years — evidence itself of Congress' chronic difficulty in compromising.


EDITOR'S NOTE — David Espo covers Congress and politics for The Associated Press.

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