CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Congress was "throw[ing] in the towel," when it adjourned more than six weeks before the election, leaving on the table legislation that should be worked on.
The Senate remained in session until 1:30 a.m. Saturday, when it adjourned until after the Nov. 6 general election.
Lawmakers will return in about seven weeks and face a crowded list of must-do items, topped by avoiding what's become known as the "fiscal cliff": the combination of expiring George W. Bush-era tax cuts and automatic spending cuts that could drive the country back into recession.
Two years of rancor and a divided government resulted in one of the least-productive Congresses in history.
"The simple truth is: how much longer should we work on a temporary basis? When is enough enough? There's not a soul in West Virginia who is begging us to come home and campaign," Manchin said.
Congress did manage to pass some measures before adjourning, including its 13th temporary spending measure in less than two years that will allow federal spending to continue even though a budget was not passed.
This temporary spending measure will remain in effect for six months, funding government operations until March 27, 2013.
The legislation also extends a spending cap Congress passed last year to reduce the deficit and prevent federal spending from exceeding certain limits.
"This was an important vote for the American people and for Congress to keep the federal government operations working and make sure that West Virginians are able to get needed services," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. "It's also a responsible bill that supports West Virginians, shows we can work together, and reduces the deficit following the guidelines Congress passed last year to set the country on a path of fiscal discipline."
The nation will have to wait until after the election for Congress to deal with taxes, spending cuts, the farm bill and the cash-strapped Postal Service. It comes as no surprise to lawmakers that their public approval has plummeted to about 12 percent.
"I literally get on a plane with a baseball hat and hope to God nobody knows who I am, because they're just going to yell at me," two-term Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., said Friday as lawmakers prepared to flee the Capitol.
After the election is over, Rockefeller said, he hopes that "Republicans will stop their obstructionist tactics and compromise on needed bills to support our veterans, prevent domestic violence, address the fiscal cliff and create jobs."
Over the past six years, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has overcome 382 filibusters to pass Senate bills. If filibusters do not end voluntarily, 60 senators must vote to pass any piece of legislation, rather than just a simple majority of the 100-member body.
"I believe we can come together to create jobs, decrease the deficit, and avoid the fiscal cliff," Rockefeller said. "These issues are too important for politics to win out."
Manchin has criticized Congress several times recently for adjourning without passing a new budget, including in a speech he delivered on the Senate floor Thursday.