Collins: A deadline's coming. Hurry up and dither

The pope makes sense. Iran seems a little more reasonable. The Russians were quite helpful. And Congress is crazy.

This month, the pope made some sensible remarks about sex, and the president of Iran made some reasonable comments about nuclear weapons. Also, the Russians proved to be extremely helpful during an international crisis. Meanwhile, on the home front, our Congress appears too crazed by internal conflict to keep the lights on.

Our elected officials are loonier than Iran. Than the pope on sex. Less useful than Vladimir Putin.

Oh, dear.

Big deadline coming! In theory, by Monday, the House and Senate are supposed to have jointly approved 12 bills appropriating money for the various sections of government in 2014. The entire package should be a prudent rethinking of what various agencies really need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively.

This is probably not going to happen because, as of today, the number of said bills passed by both bodies is zero.

The very, very best we can hope for is that Congress will gird its loins, don its armor, march out into the field and pass an agreement to kick the budgetary can down the road before the federal office doors start slamming shut on Oct. 1.

"I'm tired of dilly and dither," said Barbara Mikulski, the Senate Appropriations Committee chairwoman. So say we all.

Mikulski is arguing for a short-term can-kick, to prod progress on real, serious spending bills. That, of course, would require a joint agreement on an overall bottom line. Which the House has refused to discuss.

There are many culprits in this story, but the big obstacle to any progress whatsoever is the small but mighty cadre of tea party Republicans in the House. The ones who are trying to tie funding the government to the death of Obamacare. They are egged on by people like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who kept his colleagues immobilized this week while he talked for 21 straight hours.

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