August Recess Approaches, To-Do List Remains LongJuly 24, 2013
In just over a week, Congress will begin the mass exodus from Washington, D.C. for their annual August recess which begins Aug. 5 with lawmakers returning Sept. 9. During this recess, most lawmakers will hold a series of town hall meetings and constituent events, as well as take care of any district-related business.
During the five-week break, lawmakers will likely hear a great deal about immigration and the economy—two of the most prominent issues which await some kind of action upon their return to Washington, D.C. in September. The Senate passed a sweeping immigration reform bill while, on the other side of the Capitol, leaders have taken a more targeted approach with the House Judiciary Committee reporting out a series of targeted bills, and no clear schedule for when the full House will act on any of these bills.
The economy is the other issue likely to be at the front of constituents’ minds as they meet with their lawmakers. It is expected that the U.S. will yet again reach its debt limit by October or November this year. The rhetoric on both sides, while not as vitriolic as the 2011 debt ceiling debate, could lead to yet another potential showdown. Republicans are demanding deficit reduction measures—likely through entitlement program reforms—in exchange for an increase to the debt ceiling while the administration has stated it will not negotiate on raising the debt ceiling.
Adding pressure to the economic concerns facing lawmakers is the fact that, to date, the Senate has not approved a single appropriations measure while the House has passed just three, the Military/Veterans, Homeland Security, and Energy & Water bills. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30 and, unless Congress can pass and agree on all 12 appropriations measures (highly unlikely), they will need to approve a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government at existing levels for some period of time until they believe they can reach agreement on a comprehensive spending package.
The CR represents another hurdle for lawmakers to overcome and is necessary to avoid a government shutdown. Prominent Republicans in both the House and Senate have drafted a “Dear Colleague” letter urging lawmakers to refuse to vote for any CR which includes funding or further enforcement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
In the next week and a half prior to recess, the Senate will continue taking up presidential nominations as well as the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill. The Senate and House will likely take up measures to address student loan interest rates.
The House also will continue work on its Defense appropriations bill which is likely to include an amendment regarding government surveillance, along with the State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill and possibly the Labor-HHS Education spending bill which was bumped from this Thursday’s schedule.
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