Congress gets ready for a summer break

Lawmakers in Congress know that when they leave Washington, D.C. later this week, they don’t have to be back on the floor of the House and Senate until the week of September 10, as both parties will try to score as many political points as possible in the next few days.

The “August Recess” as it is known on Capitol Hill is the annual reward for members and staff after a busy run from the July Fourth break – though the last three weeks of 2012 here in the Congress haven’t exactly been stressful in terms of work.

For Republicans, the centerpiece of their work this week will be House approval of a plan to extend all of the current income tax rates for one year.

“While the President and Senate Democrats push for a massive tax hike on small businesses, the House will vote to stop the tax hike,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA).

That “tax hike” refers to the Senate-passed bill backed by the White House and Democrats in the Congress; Democrats will be allowed to offer their own plan to extend the current rates on household income below $250,000, but that will most certainly be voted down – with at least a few Democrats siding with Republicans on that vote.

The House is also expected to approve a one year extension of the current Farm Bill, which may be more of a negotiating ploy than anything else to allow key lawmakers to forge a deal on a regular five year measure dealing with agricultural subsidies.

One reason the House Republican leadership decided to act is the pressure they’re feeling in rural communities hit hard by drought this year.

“This drought and the uncertainty it is causing farmers and ranchers and other segments of our industry underscores the importance of completing action on the 2012 farm bill,” said Bob Stallman, the President of the American Farm Bureau.

(Doing these type of stories takes me back to my roots, because my first reporting job on Capitol Hill included farm reports for radio stations in the U.S., Canada and Australia.)

While Congress will produce some major headlines this week, there are some smaller items on the agenda, like the “Pro Football Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act” – that is H.R. 4104 if you want to see the bill.

Across the Capitol, Senators will try to move ahead on a major cybersecurity bill before leaving town.

Look for Democrats to focus most of their P.R. energy on Republicans in the House, as both sides will maneuver as best they can to get the high ground on the Bush tax rates.

The Republican National Convention begins four weeks from today; the Democratic Convention starts five weeks from tomorrow.

And Election Day is now under 100 days away.