A GOP pri­or­ity for short ses­sion: Ad­journ, cam­paign

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By An­drew Tay­lor

WASH­ING­TON — Law­mak­ers re­turn to Wash­ing­ton this week for an ab­bre­vi­ated elec­tion-sea­son ses­sion in which they will likely do what they do best: the bare min­i­mum.

All Congress must do this month is keep the gov­ern­ment from shut­ting downon Oct. 1 and, with any luck, pro­vide money for the fight against the mos­quito-borne Zika virus.

A chief mo­ti­va­tion for the Septem­ber ses­sion, es­pe­cially for Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., is al­low­ing law­mak­ers to re­turn to cam­paign­ing as soon as pos­si­ble. Repub­li­cans are scram­bling to hold onto their Se­nate edge as GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump lags in the polls.

A short-term spend­ing mea­sure is sure to pass. The alternative is that Repub­li­cans would get the blame for a gov­ern­ment shut­down, as they did in 2013.

But it’s a com­pli­cated path for the tem­po­rary spend­ing bill. Some House con­ser­va­tives say the mea­sure should last into next year, when there is a new pres­i­dent and a new Congress, and that would block any chance for a ses­sion af­ter the Nov. 8 elec­tion. Lead­ers in both par­ties feel oth­er­wise — as does Pres­i­dent Barack Obama — and a tem­po­rary mea­sure un­til De­cem­ber seems to be the con­sen­sus.

“We are not do­ing any­thing into next year and ev­ery Repub­li­can should be aware of that right now,” said Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Law­mak­ers left Wash­ing­ton seven weeks ago with­out re­solv­ing a dis­pute over money for Zika. The virus can cause se­vere birth de­fects and is linked to a host of Congress must con­sider a short-term spend­ing mea­sure. other mal­adies. Obama asked Congress in Fe­bru­ary for $1.9 bil­lion in emer­gency money, but leg­is­la­tion to par­tially pay for his pro­posal col­lapsed in July amid var­i­ous fights. Among them was a GOP pro­vi­sion to deny money to Puerto Ri­can af­fil­i­ates of Planned Par­ent­hood.

The shut­down-preven­tion mea­sure sim­ply is a tempt­ing tar­get for law­mak­ers seek­ing to use it as a ve­hi­cle for their pref­er­ences. For in­stance, Sen. Bill Cas­sidy, R-La., is press­ing for emer­gency grants to help his flood-rav­aged state to re­cover.

But GOPlead­ers prob­a­bly will try to keep the spend­ing bill as free of un­re­lated ad­di­tions as pos­si­ble. If GOP lead­ers were to grant Cas­sidy’s re­quest, it would make it more dif­fi­cult to say no to oth­ers, such as Democrats seek­ing money for fix­ing the wa­ter sys­tem of Flint, Mich.

House con­ser­va­tives are look­ing to press ahead with im­peach­ing IRS Com­mis­sioner John Kosk­i­nen over the de­struc­tion of agency emails and mis­lead­ing tes­ti­mony on whether the tax agency, be­fore his ar­rival, im­prop­erly scru­ti­nized con­ser­va­tive groups seek­ing non­profit sta­tus.

In a re­cent memo, House Ma­jor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said law­mak­ers will take up leg­isla- tion re­gard­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s $400 mil­lion pay­ment to Iran in Jan­uary, made im­me­di­ately af­ter four U.S. pris­on­ers were re­leased.

McCon­nell also wants to ad­vance a pop­u­lar wa­ter­pro­jects mea­sure. But the pri­or­ity is to ad­journ the cham­ber to al­low em­bat­tled in­cum­bents such as Sens. Kelly Ay­otte, R-N.H., Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., to get back home and cam­paign for re-elec­tion.

The ab­bre­vi­ated ses­sion should give GOP-run com­mit­tees a fi­nal pre-elec­tion chance to hold hear­ings on the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and other tar­gets such as EpiPen man­u­fac­turer My­lan N.V. That com­pany has come un­der crit­i­cism for steep price in­creases for its life­sav­ing in­jec­tor, which can stop po­ten­tially fa­tal al­ler­gic re­ac­tions to in­sect bites and stings and foods such as peanuts and eggs.

House Repub­li­cans are promis­ing hear­ings on Hil­lary Clin­ton’s emails. FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey crit­i­cized Clin­ton’s use of a home email server to han­dle sen­si­tive work-re­lated emails dur­ing her time as sec­re­tary of state as “ex­tremely care­less” but said his agency’s year­long in­ves­ti­ga­tion found no ev­i­dence of crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing.


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