Back to business in Washington

9/7/2008 WASHINGTON The only matter of business that must be accomplished is passing a bill to keep the government running from Oct. 1 through the Nov. 4 election and until Congress returns. Even that might not be easy. Republicans are threatening to block the spending bill if Democrats do not give them a vote on ending a quarter-century freeze on new offshore drilling.

Some lawmakers hold out hopes that an energy bill that has eluded them all year might come together. With 179,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Democratic leaders would like to pass a Pentagon spending bill so they can tell voters that the military's basic needs are covered until October 2009.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday blamed President Bush and Republicans for the latest dismal unemployment statistics and said Democrats would respond with the second economic aid plan of the year.

That theme was repeated in Pennsylvania by Democratic presidential Barack Obama. "We've had eight consecutive months of job loss," he said at a town hall meeting.

But the odds are not good that Congress will act on energy or the economy.

Republicans have made the Democrats' reluctance to open up more offshore areas to oil drilling the major theme.

"We'll produce more energy at home," GOP presidential candidate John McCain said during his acceptance speech at the Republican convention Thursday.

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