As we all seek to figure out what exactly is going on in the public and private “negotiations” involving Russia, Syria and the United States, one thing is sure: Congress is now basically offline when it comes to making policy in this area, as noted by WaPo’s Ed O’Keefe:

The Senate is formally dropping consideration of a resolution authorizing U.S. military force in Syria and deferring instead to diplomatic attempts to end the crisis.
“We’ve agreed on a way forward based on the president’s speech last night,” Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) announced on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon.

While Secretary of State John F. Kerry travels to Geneva on Thursday for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Reid said the Senate would move on so as “not to tread water” on the Syrian issue and begin debating a bipartisan energy efficiency bill that has been waiting for consideration for months.

So having fought its way into the Syria debate just days ago, Congress is stepping aside–or perhaps it’s better to say it’s stepping out of one quagmire into another, the partisan fiscal conflict that’s no closer to being resolved now than it has been since 2011. Indeed, the House is about to adjourn for a long weekend, leaving itself just five working days before the end of the fiscal year. At present the GOP leadership doesn’t have the votes to pass a continuing appropriations resolution to keep the government functioning because it can’t find a formula that sufficiently “defunds Obamacare” to satisfy 30 or so conservatives.

All the earlier talk about how the Syria crisis was going to “distract” Congress from dealing with its other issues is now shown to have missed the point: time isn’t what Congress needs. It needs a Republican Party, especially in the House, that make decisions without constantly placating a faction willing to blow up the budget, the operations of the federal government, and perhaps the economy, if it is not allowed to nullify past laws and overturn past elections.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.