Washington snowed out

One winter storm after another disrupts government and politics

Published February 9, 2010 1:09AM (EST)

The nation's capital has been snowed out.

A massive snowstorm ripped through Washington on Friday and Saturday, dumping nearly two feet all over the region, leaving hundreds of thousands of homes without power and crippling roads and mass transit. The Metro subway and bus system, the second-busiest in the country after New York, canceled service to its above-ground train stations, scrapped most bus routes and ran very delayed trains underground. And as a result, government and politics slowed down. The federal government closed early Friday, never opened on Monday and has already closed for Tuesday. The House canceled plans for votes on Tuesday, after already pushing back Monday's session, because so many flights were canceled over the weekend that lawmakers couldn't get back to Washington. (Ronald Reagan National Airport didn't reopen from the storm until early Monday morning, but aides say the Senate plans to try to conduct business on Tuesday.) President Obama had no public events Monday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs canceled his briefing, and the White House told the press they'd have no more announcements before 6 p.m.

And by late Monday, the National Weather Service was starting to make very threatening noises about another storm set to roll through on Tuesday and Wednesday. "A WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM NOON TUESDAY TO 7 PM EST WEDNESDAY," a winter storm warning declared. "PRECIPITATION TYPE...SNOW. ACCUMULATIONS...10 TO 20 INCHES."

Which means the snow is actually starting to interfere with the agenda for Democrats and for Obama. Congress was supposed to be working on a jobs bill this week; if the storm Tuesday night is as bad as the forecast sounds, lawmakers won't be able to get back to D.C. until Friday, at the earliest, and Congress almost never works on a Friday if it can be avoided. Which means the entire legislative workweek could be lost. That, in turn, means no in-person meetings on healthcare reform, slower action on the new top priority -- the economy -- and a chain reaction, as everything gets pushed back because of the weather.

On top of all that, Congress is already scheduled to be gone next week, anyway, for a President's Day recess. It's enough to make you wonder if the GOP has been seeding the clouds over Washington.

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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