Congress has work left to do

  • Updated: September 10, 2012 - 8:12 PM

Thirteen days remain on the legislative calendar between this week and Election Day, leaving Congress, which returned Monday, little time to complete action on several pressing issues, including the passage of a stopgap budget. Here's a look ahead:

1 Continuing resolution. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30 and Congress is expected to pass a six-month stopgap spending measure in the next two weeks -- with the House going first, followed by the Senate sometime next week after the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

The deal is expected to set government spending at no more than $1.047 trillion, as agreed to in a debt deal this summer. The amount is a slight increase over this year's level of $1.043 trillion. The spending bill appears set to pass easily, even though many GOP conservatives are upset that it would allow more spending than permitted under a GOP budget plan written by Rep. Paul Ryan that passed the House in the spring.

2 Farm bill. Last month, Congress did not extend and fund agricultural programs before the congressional recess. With dozens of states reeling from a historic drought -- and many of those states home to some of the most competitive House and Senate races -- both parties feel compelled to address farming, food and agricultural policy issues before leaving town for Election Day. Protests by farmers on Wednesday on Capitol Hill might also prod action. The Senate passed a bipartisan farm bill in June, but the House has yet to act amid Republican disagreement over spending levels and farm policy. Those eager to quickly pass a one-year extension of farm policy, take note: A farm bill extension could be added as an amendment to the must-pass continuing resolution, Roll Call reported Sunday.

3 What else gets a vote? Other items on the congressional to-do list include: Senate passage of a veterans jobs bill; a measure that would normalize trade relations with Russia (which might include strict punishment for Russian officials accused of human rights abuses); reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act; competing bills to restructure the U.S. Postal Service; possible resolution of long-standing disagreements over cybersecurity; consideration of several tax measures; and a Senate Democratic mortgage relief bill. Could any of these issues be resolved before Election Day? Aides say there's not much hope. And then keep an eye on Senate Democratic leaders, who might decide to hold another up-or-down vote on the Ryan budget, which would put moderate Senate Republicans in the tricky position of voting for or against a spending plan written by their vice presidential nominee.

4 Bipartisan get-togethers. With voters griping about the lack of bipartisan comity on Capitol Hill, three scheduled events in the next two weeks should provide evidence of trying to get along. On Tuesday, lawmakers plan to mark the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks by gathering at the same spot on the steps of the U.S. Capitol where lawmakers sang "God Bless America" in the hours after the attacks. On Wednesday, they'll gather for a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony for pro golfer Arnold Palmer. A similar Gold Medal ceremony will be held for Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi the following week.

WASHINGTON POST

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