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On Independence Day, CBS Frets Congress Becoming 'Paralyzed' Over 'Fear of the Deficit'

West coast viewers got to see a July 4 CBS Evening News on Sunday, and those who tuned in saw CBS's interim "report card" on Congress's performance so far. Under the headline of "unfinished business," correspondent Wyatt Andrews and his sole expert, Politico's Jonathan Allen, both fretted how Congress is now "paralyzed" due to a "growing fear of the deficit."

Many Americans are probably wishing Congress had become "paralyzed" a few trillion dollars ago.

Andrews rued that supposedly job-creating "stimulus spending" may be sacrificed if enough congressmen feel deficit spending is now "political Kryptonite."

Many members of Congress especially those in tough re-election campaigns are home right now, trying to figure out the spending issue: Will voters support more stimulus spending if it directly leads to jobs, or has deficit spending itself become political Kryptonite?

CBS's main example of congressional indecision, however, was an urgently-needed Afghanistan war funding bill that the Senate has nearly doubled with additional spending, pushing it from $33 to $60 billion, and that has ballooned in the House to $80 billion.

That doesn't sound like a Congress that is becoming cowed by the need to throttle back spending.

Here's the transcript of the piece from the July 4 Evening News; video is available at CBSNews.com:

ANCHOR RUSS MITCHELL: Congress has had some notable successes this year in health care and education reform along others. But members have a lot of catching up to do when they return from their holiday recess in a week and a half. Wyatt Andrews has more.

CORRESPONDENT WYATT ANDREWS: As members of Congress streamed from the Capitol Thursday night, they were leaving for a ten-day break, but escaping a long list of unfinished business. Despite repeated demands for final action-

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS: Do not be afraid to vote with your heart, and your conscience.

ANDREWS: -action was hard to find. The extension of unemployment benefits, funding for the war in Afghanistan, funding for 100,000 teachers, Wall Street reform, and campaign finance reform were all either stuck, or stalled, or rejected and presumed dead. [to Jonathan Allen] How much of that did they get done?

The POLITICO's JONATHAN ALLEN: They got absolutely none of it done before the July 4th break.

ANDREWS: Zero?

ALLEN: Zero.

WYATT ANDREWS: Jonathan Allen of Politico, who's covered the Hill for eleven years, calls Congress unusually paralyzed this time because of a growing fear of the deficit.

ALLEN: You see that paralysis in Congress where there are these sort of conflicting impulses of, 'We've got to do something to help,' but 'We can`t do that because it cost too much money.'

ANDREWS: The latest example is funding for Afghanistan. The administration asked for $33 billion, but the Senate bill totaled $60 billion by tacking on spending for veterans - and the House bill, by adding extra money for teachers, totaled $80 billion. Because the two bills are different and bitterly contested, money the Defense Department said it needed to fight the war now is on hold.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT GATES: We begin to have to do stupid things if the supplemental isn't passed by the Fourth of July recess.

WYATT ANDREWS: Many members of Congress especially those in tough re-election campaigns are home right now, trying to figure out the spending issue: Will voters support more stimulus spending if it directly leads to jobs, or has deficit spending itself become political kryptonite? Wyatt Andrews, CBS News, Capitol Hill.

-Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.