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Congress seen likely to sit out much of ’14

Fall election result could be only spur left for legislators

WASHINGTON — Little more than a week after Groundhog Day, the evidence is mounting that lawmakers have all but wrapped up their most consequential work of 2014, at least until the results of the fall elections are known.

‘‘We’ve got a lot of things on our plate,’’ House Speaker John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, said recently when asked what Congress will be busy with this year, but he predicted no breakthroughs on immigration, taxes, or any other area.

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‘‘Why don’t we just pack up and go home?’’ countered the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, after Boehner blamed President Obama for lack of movement on immigration. ‘‘What we’re supposed to do is legislate and not make up excuses as to why we don’t.’’

A Senate-passed immigration bill has fallen into the congressional equivalent of a black hole in the House, where conservative critics cite a changing series of reasons for not wanting to take action.

Initially, they said they did not want to vote on a bill because they oppose amnesty for immigrants living in the country illegally. Then they observed it would be a political mistake to shift focus away from their own opposition to the health care law, which unites them, and turn it onto an issue that divides them.

Most recently, Boehner, who has said repeatedly he wants to pass an immigration bill, has joined others in citing a lack of trust with Obama as a reason for inaction.

If immigration legislation is moribund in the House, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has made it clear he does not intend to seek passage of a second Obama priority: a bill to facilitate passage of trade deals with Europe and Asia.

‘‘I’m against fast track,’’ said the man who sets the Senate’s agenda, referring to the measure Obama wants. ‘‘I think everyone would be well advised just to not push this right now.’’

The legislation is opposed by large segments of organized labor, which Democrats will be counting on to pour money and manpower into their bid to hold control of the Senate in the November election.

Republicans need to gain six seats to win a majority. They say they increasingly are bullish about their prospects, what with the country generally pessimistic about the future, Obama’s favorability ratings well below the levels of his reelection campaign, and controversies afflicting the president’s health law.

Although Reid has not said so, other lawmakers and aides speculate that trade could top the agenda of any postelection session of Congress.

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