Countdown to August: 30 workdays left

By SCOTT WONG, Politico

As the clock ticks toward the summer recess, the gap between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s ambitious agenda and political reality seems to be growing.

Driven by a White House that wants to keep racking up accomplishments, Reid continues to add big-ticket items to the Senate agenda — like energy and immigration — while fellow Democrats keep trying to take them off. President Barack Obama wants a quick confirmation for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, but he also wants an energy bill and a final deal on Wall Street reform.

But with just 30 workdays remaining before senators check out for the August break, Democrats are fatigued, still have ahealth care hangover and are increasingly pessimistic about what can actually get done.

Is the agenda realistic?

“No,” replied Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), with not a hint of hesitation. “It’s the present timetable, but it’s going to slip, by necessity.”

How can the Senate expect to pull off an energy bill or even consider immigration when it’s paralyzed by bills that used to be a slam-dunk, like war funding? Unemployment benefits and tax extenders are stalled, and teacher layoffs loom, thanks to the Senate’s summer budget crisis. The Senate hasn’t done a budget, and most appropriations bills won’t see the light of day until a lame-duck session.

A top Democratic Senate aide said there’s little support for comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation, even as millions of gallons of oil continue to spew into the Gulf of Mexico.

“Of the three [legislative priorities], I think Kagan can and will get done. Everyone thinks so, but … there is a lot of skepticism about energy,” the aide said. “I don’t think there is an appetite for federal comprehensive climate legislation. No one does who can count up to 60.”

Even usually optimistic senators have a bleak outlook.

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