Law­mak­ers fac­ing chal­lenges News Shows

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Alan Fram

WASH­ING­TON» Congress will have to prove its met­tle this fall. It has no choice.

Repub­li­cans have lit­tle to show for their first seven months of con­trol­ling the White House and Capi­tol Hill. The Se­nate sent Jus­tice Neil Gor­such to the Supreme Court, and Congress passed bills bol­ster­ing vet­er­ans’ health pro­grams and fi­nanc­ing the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion. It ap­proved an­other sanc­tion­ing Rus­sia for its 2016 elec­tion med­dling, which Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­sent­fully signed know­ing Congress would lop­sid­edly over­ride a veto.

Law­mak­ers re­turn­ing from re­cess af­ter La­bor Day will con­front a pile of bills they must ap­prove. They’ll also face an­other stack of work they’ve promised to tackle and that GOP vot­ers elected them to achieve.

REPUB­LI­CANS IN CHARGE ...

... But have yet to prove they can de­liver their promised agenda or ac­com­plish the ba­sics of gov­ern­ing.

Con­gres­sional lead­ers rec­og­nize this risks blow­back in next year’s midterm elec­tions. House Speaker Paul Ryan, Rwis., told a dis­pleased voter in Muk­won­ago, Wis., last week: “We’ve got to get it done.”

Septem­ber will give Repub­li­cans a chance to com­plete their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties with min­i­mal fuss. If they de­liver a tax cut, GOP think­ing goes, much will be for­given.

MONEY ARE

Two must-do items will dom­i­nate Congress’ Septem­ber agenda: in­creas­ing the gov­ern­ment’s debt limit to pre­vent a jar­ring fed­eral de­fault and pass­ing a tem­po­rary spend­ing bill to avert a gov­ern­ment shut­down.

Many Repub­li­cans can’t bring them­selves to back a debt limit boost. But they run the gov­ern­ment, and it’s their re­spon­si­bil­ity to de­liver those votes. Demo­cratic sup­port will be re­quired, and some hope they’ll win con­ces­sions in ex­change.

A stop­gap mea­sure will be needed be­cause the 12 an­nual spend­ing bills are be­hind sched­ule. There’s no agree­ment on their over­all price tag, which will be in the $1 tril­lion­plus range.

One wild card is whether Trump will press to fund the U.s.-mex­ico bor­der wall he’s pledged. That could spark a nasty con­fronta­tion with Democrats.

TAXES

The White House and Repub­li­cans prom­ise to re­vamp the loop­hole­choked tax code and lower rates for cor­po­ra­tions and in­di­vid­u­als. Along with re­peal­ing and re­plac­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care law, this is holy grail for the GOP.

But core prin­ci­ples re­main un­re­solved, in­clud­ing whether the ef­fort would fur­ther bloat the bud­get deficit. Cru­cial de­tails must be set­tled, among them how far to lower rates and which tax cred­its and de­duc­tions would be erased. The last time those prob­lems were rec­on­ciled and the tax code broadly re­shaped was 1986.

HEALTH CARE

The GOP’S sig­na­ture dis­as­ter so far this year was the Se­nate’s July re­jec­tion of at­tempts by Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mccon­nell, R-KY., to erad­i­cate Obama’s health care law. Repub­li­can di­vi­sions proved fa­tal, and they’re split over what comes next.

Trump has goaded Mccon­nell to keep try­ing. Se­nate lead­ers have shown lit­tle en­thu­si­asm for charg­ing back up that hill without the votes to pass some­thing.

“We’ve piv­oted to tax re­form and I think we’ve got to stay on that,” Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee Chair­man Or­rin Hatch, R-utah, said in a brief in­ter­view Fri­day.

Health com­mit­tee Chair­man La­mar Alexan­der, R-tenn., says he’ll work with the panel’s top Demo­crat, Patty Mur­ray of Wash­ing­ton state, to con­tinue bil­lions in pay­ments to in­sur­ers for re­duc­ing out-of-pocket costs for low- and mid­dlein­come cus­tomers. In ex­change, Alexan­der wants to re­lax cov­er­age re­quire­ments that pro­tect con­sumers un­der Obama’s law. It’s un­clear the par­ties can reach com­pro­mise.

DE­FENSE

The Se­nate aims to ap­prove the an­nual de­fense pol­icy bill in Septem­ber. That’s when Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man John Mccain, R-ariz., ex­pects to re­turn to Wash­ing­ton af­ter start­ing brain can­cer treat­ment.

He and Mccon­nell wanted to pass the bill last month, but Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY., thwarted that plan. Paul wants votes on amend­ments on in­def­i­nite de­ten­tion and war au­tho­riza­tion.

Mccain has warned he’ll use the bill to map a strat­egy for Afghanistan if Trump fails to de­velop a plan.

RUS­SIA

The House and Se­nate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tees are in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether Rus­sia worked with Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign to try help­ing him win the elec­tion. The FBI and Jus­tice De­part­ment spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller are also in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

Trump has re­peat­edly den­i­grated the is­sue as

“State of the Union”

Sen. Ron John­son, R-wis.; Rep. Adam Schiff, D-calif.; Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J. CNN

“This Week”

Pres­i­den­tial ad­viser Kellyanne Con­way; Sens. Chris Coons, D-del., and Thom Til­lis, R-N.C.

“Meet the Press”

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-ariz.; Gov. Jerry Brown, D-calif.

“Fox News Sun­day”

Til­lis.

“Face the Na­tion”

Sen. Tom Cot­ton, Rark.; Govs. John Ka­sich, R-ohio, and John Hick­en­looper, D-colo.; for­mer Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Jeh John­son. Kcnc-chan­nel 4, “fake news” and a “witch hunt.”

Law­mak­ers from both par­ties seem de­ter­mined to press on. Sen­a­tors in­tro­duced bi­par­ti­san bills last week cre­at­ing ju­di­cial re­view pro­ce­dures that could shield Mueller from fir­ing by Trump.

EN­ERGY

Law­mak­ers hope to ap­prove a bi­par­ti­san bill speed­ing fed­eral ap­proval of projects to ex­port liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas and boost­ing en­ergy sources and ef­fi­ciency.

Repub­li­cans also want to roll back the En­dan­gered Species Act, say­ing it hin­ders drilling and log­ging.

EXPIRING PRO­GRAMS

Sev­eral pro­grams ex­pire Sept. 30, in­clud­ing the Chil­dren’s Health In­sur­ance Pro­gram, a Demo­cratic fa­vorite.

Also fac­ing ex­pi­ra­tion are fed­eral flood in­sur­ance and pro­grams run by the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Con­ser­va­tives chaff at re­new­ing flood in­sur­ance, which is $25 bil­lion in debt. FAA re­newal is stuck over a plan to trans­fer the agency’s air traf­fic con­trol sys­tem to a pri­vate non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion.

J. Scott Ap­ple­white, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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