Congress, With Much Left to Do, Takes 5 Weeks Off

A Congressional decision will keep subsidized Stafford loan interest rates at 3.4 percent for one more year.
Associated Press SHARE

The Senate Appropriations Committee, meanwhile, approved a $604 billion defense spending plan for next year that is $29 billion less than current spending but reverses proposed Pentagon cuts in Air Force personnel and equipment. The committee rejected a Republican proposal that would have required defense contractors to send out notices of possible job layoffs related to the automatic cuts just before the November presidential election.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., were able to put off one impending disaster when they reached an agreement last week on extending federal programs for six months, averting a possible government shutdown when the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., issued a statement that, if the Senate was willing to go along, the House was prepared to bring up legislation in September to approve permanent normal trade relations with Russia. Russia is set to join the World Trade Organization on Aug. 22 and unless Congress removes current trade restrictions, U.S. businesses will not be able to take advantage of lowered trade barriers that will accompany Russia's entrance into the WTO.

The House also began its day Thursday on a united if somber note, voting by voice to reprimand one of its own, California Democrat Laura Richardson, for forcing her congressional staff to do campaign work and violating codes of conduct for government service.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.