Immigration, Gay Rights, War Among Issues Congress Won't Get Around to This SummerS

What is Congress going to do this summer? The House plans on taking it easy, and the Senate will work very hard. Which means the House will get only twice as much done as the Senate for a change.

After forcing everyone in the House to take "tough votes" on things that ended up being completely meaningless because of Ben Nelson and Scott Brown and Blanche Lincoln and Joe Lieberman, the Wise Council of Elders that runs the nation, Nancy Pelosi is going to let everyone campaign now. Which means popular little bills.

Pelosi had previously told reporters she was ready to shift into campaign mode and told her Members that they could largely say goodbye to the tough votes they were forced to endure throughout 2009.

And aside from a potential push for gay rights legislation, that means spending the next seven months focusing mostly on smaller, targeted jobs bills and waiting to see what the Senate can produce on a financial regulatory overhaul, energy reform and hundreds of other measures that have already passed the House.

Oh, gay rights legislation, you say? Apparently there is a bill banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation (the "gay predator teachers abusing your children act") that the House already passed in 2007 (after dropping the provision about not discriminating against transgendered people, because they are gross) and then it died in the Senate. And Barney Frank has another bill with 199 co-sponsors ready to go as soon as the whip counts are in. And then Rep. Patrick Murphy will push for Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal.

And then the House will work on the Afghanistan War supplemental, a budget resolution, and maybe a transportation bill. And a jobs package, if there's time.

That is Nancy Pelosi just takin' it easy.

Back in the Senate, they will attempt, and probably fail, to do two things before the midterms: confirm Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee and pass comprehensive immigration reform. Good luck, guys! (Oh, and they have to ratify a treaty, too. Hah.)

Immigration reform is basically the perfect cause to both split the incredibly fragile Republican coalition (some Tea Party leaders are pro-immigrant, while most of the rank-and-file hate the job-stealing Mexicans) and rally the base. Which means right now they are working on a "bipartisan" compromise bill with American Commander-in-Chief Lindsey Graham that will go nowhere because Lindsey has already basically admitted that he has does not have the power to win any support from his own caucus. ("Reactions from those GOP Senators ranged from, 'Hell no' to 'I'll probably support the bill, but I'm not going to co-sponsor,' the source said.")

But Lindsey has a plan to win popular support: have our generally popular but incredibly divisive president wade in.

Throwing another wrench into matters, Graham recently declared immigration reform dead for the year because of the partisan rancor left over from the health care debate. He has been reluctant to press ahead without at least another GOP co-sponsor on his proposal and, last month, delivered a harsh message to President Barack Obama about the role that he has played in the debate.

"President Obama, lead. ... You do the heavy lifting. You put together a comprehensive immigration reform package. You bring it to the Senate and House and see how many Democrat and Republican supporters you can get," Graham said on ABC's "This Week." "All you have done is talk about what we should do. Now is the time to lead."

A brilliant idea, Lindsey. Yes, once President Obama leads the charge, Republicans will totally fall in line and do what's best for the nation. Because they have so much respect for the wise leadership of our legitimately-elected President.

Seriously, this is an issue guaranteed to win long-term support for the Democrats and hurt the Republicans electorally for two generations, and Senate Democrats don't want to move forward with a one-party bill because they are scared Peggy Noonan will say something mean about them on Meet the Press.

So that's your summer legislative schedule: gridlock and ineptitude in the Senate, and quiet, ruthless efficiency in the House.

(Oh, and financial regulation! Something or other with that name will eventually be debated in the Senate. At the moment it's a crap shoot whether it'll be meaningful or some sort of bipartisan capital gains tax cut.) (Hah, it is so cute to imagine the Senate accomplishing any of these things before November. Or next January.)

[AP Photo/Alex Brandon]