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Snow stalls the federal government
Las Vegas Sun


February 10, 2010

WASHINGTON - It began as so much unexpected fun -- the sledding on the grounds of the Capitol, the Facebook-inspired snowball fights and the clever nicknames for the freak storm -- snowpocalypse, snowmaggedon.

Until it wasn't.

Three feet of snow later, with more on Wednesday, the historic snowfall has done what years of ambitious politicians and mischief-making obstructionists could not do: It virtually stopped the business of government in Washington.

The House abruptly canceled its workweek. The White House hastily rearranged its schedule. The Senate shut down Wednesday.

For the party in power in Washington, snowverkill -- the latest nickname -- is just the latest in a series of setbacks that is messing with Democrats' ability to govern.

"The issue before the Senate today is what we do with Mother Nature," Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday as he outlined scheduling options for the week.

Snow days are problematic because this week the legislative branch hoped to make a final push before the President's Day recess, when lawmakers return to their home states and tout their accomplishments.

Democrats wanted to go home victorious with a jobs bill to show restive voters they understand it's the economy, stupid. The House already passed its version late last year, a robust $150 million package of unemployment insurance, transportation building projects and small-business tax cuts.

For backup, the House this week was set to pass a modest health care reform bill that would end the insurance industry's unpopular exemption from antitrust laws. But that is off the table now that lawmakers are grounded in their home states, and snow piles the size of small children line the streets of the capital.

Some political business is carrying on as usual. President Barack Obama welcomed Reid and other congressional leaders Tuesday for a confab at the White House as they all try to just get along.

However, the Senate's attempt to bring its version of the jobs bill to the floor this week may melt quicker than the snowpack.

As a second storm was bearing down on Washington on Tuesday evening, the Senate was putting the finishing touches on its jobs package -- an $80 million offering of tax incentives to hire unemployed workers, tax breaks for small business, transportation and local government building programs.

Reid was threatening a weekend session, if needed, to get it done.

This latest act of God is one in a series of setbacks that has made the start of 2010 unkind to Democrats.

First, the special election in Massachusetts swept Republican Scott Brown to the Senate, ending the Democrats' 60-seat majority needed to overcome Republican opposition.

With snow beginning to fall again late Tuesday, Reid cut the Senate loose for Wednesday but vowed to return Thursday to a regular schedule of policy meetings and, possibly, votes.

"Mother Nature," Reid said, "has been very difficult to deal with."



Lisa Mascaro can be reached at lisa.mascara(at)
Distributed to subscribers for publication by
Scripps Howard News Service,

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