Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Congress Returns to Packed Schedule

Drew Thies

Members of Congress returned to Washington Tuesday to begin what will surely be a whirlwind month for lawmakers and their staff.

Labor Day marked the last day of the Congressional August recess and many items still remain on the plate for Congress, namely the expiration of government funding at the end of September. There are only 12 legislative days this month when both chambers are in and schedules are crowded with everything from the papal visit to the contentious Iran deal.

Making negotiations even more tense are a group of conservative Republicans who are pushing for a showdown over federal funding of Planned Parenthood. Party leaders on both sides of the aisle are hoping to avoid a government shutdown similar to the one in Fall 2013, but nothing is off the table.

It is unlikely Congress will come up with a comprehensive plan to fund the government like the one currently set to expire, at least by the end of the month. Appropriations bills that were supposed to be completed by this time were too contentious for bipartisan agreement and lawmakers will likely have to pass a smaller, stopgap spending bill to fund the government through the end of the year while other plans are developed.

Conservatives are hoping to use the same tactics used to threaten the Affordable Care Act prior to the 2013 government shutdown to receive concessions on Planned Parenthood funding—a move that could make even a small spending bill highly contentious.

Action on a bill disapproving of President Obama’s recent nuclear deal with Iran is sucking up most of the oxygen in Congress this week, as action is required on the legislation before September 17th, creating an even tighter deadline for negotiations.

Constituents’ concerns will be on lawmakers’ minds as they return from their districts and there are many difficult votes in the coming weeks.

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