Here's what Congress spends time on instead of Zika funding

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Chance Seales, Media General National Correspondent – WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) -- Congress struggles to pass significant legislation in good times, much less in a pitched election season complicated by bitter partisanship.

Members have managed to move a handful of bipartisan bills related to issues like opioid abuse and criminal justice reform. But much important work sits on Capitol shelves collecting dust.

Zika is now threatening to spread through the American South, yet the House and Senate hasn't worked out a funding deal. Mental health reform looked promising in January. With just weeks left on the legislative calendar, it's still stuck in committee.

Congress will soon return from a month-long recess before skipping town again until the November 8 election. With stacks of meaningful work to be done, Congress' allocation of time and resources raises questions.

The Bison Bill

America now has an official mammal: the North American bison.

May 2016 saw the passage of the National Bison Legacy Act, otherwise known as the "Bison Bill."

House and Senate members saw fit to vote on the measure, while other important efforts foundered.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest noted that the West Wing gave the bill careful consideration so as not to "get buffaloed."

H.R. 2908 included, among others, the entries:

(17) a bison is portrayed on 2 State flags;

(18) the bison has been adopted by 3 States as the official mammal or animal of those States;

(19) a bison has been depicted on the official seal of the Department of the Interior since 1912;

(20) the buffalo nickel played an important role in modernizing the currency of the United States;

President Barack Obama finally signed the Bison Bill and, abracadabra, the bison is now officially our mammal.

Magic, our "national treasure"

"Recognizing magic as a rare and valuable art form and national treasure" is the aim of House Resolution 642.

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) introduced H.Res. 642 in March 2016 to a lukewarm reception.

It would resolve and ensure that America "supports efforts to make certain that magic is preserved, understood, and promulgated."

14 co-sponsors joined Sessions in his desire to honor and promote the art of magic.

It was subsequently referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where it's been middling.

Bourbon regulations

National bourbon regulations, backed by federal statute, prove that odd legislative priorities are a time-honored tradition in Washington.

As it turns out, the only liquor eligible to be legally marketed as "straight bourbon whiskey" is regulated down to the very lining of the barrels in which it's aged.

Oddly enough, it does not have to come from Kentucky.

Based on 1969 laws, the TTB stipulates that straight bourbon whiskey must be:

  • Made in America
  • Aged in a barrel
  • Barrel must be charred on the inside
  • Barrels can only be used once

The industry's used bourbon barrels routinely wind up in a variety of countries, holding a new generation of liquor.

Or, if you're into Pinterest, the spent barrels could become your next urinal or fire pit.

Follow Chance Seales on Twitter: @ChanceSeales

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