House law­mak­ers head home fac­ing a long to-do list in Septem­ber

The Sentinel-Record - - OBITUARIES - AN­DREW TAY­LOR

WASH­ING­TON — House law­mak­ers left Wash­ing­ton for their weeks long Au­gust va­ca­tion, promis­ing to re­turn in Septem­ber to tackle tax re­form and fi­nally claim a ma­jor leg­isla­tive win that has so far eluded Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Repub­li­cans in charge.

Sen­a­tors are stay­ing be­hind for a sched­uled two-week stint in which they hope to clear a back­log of nom­i­na­tions and rou­tine leg­is­la­tion that’s been put off as Repub­li­cans have strug­gled on health care.

When Congress re­turns Sept. 5, law­mak­ers will face have an ex­ten­sive and dif­fi­cult ros­ter of must-do items, most im­por­tant among them in­creas­ing the fed­eral debt limit and, separately, pre­vent­ing a govern­ment shut­down when the fis­cal year ends on Sept. 30. Fed­eral flood in­sur­ance and the pop­u­lar chil­dren’s health in­sur­ance pro­gram ex­pire as well.

Repub­li­cans are also far be­hind on the bud­get, a pre­req­ui­site for any Repub­li­can-only over­haul of the tax code. And, Congress is far be­hind on the an­nual round of spend­ing leg­is­la­tion, the 12 ap­pro­pri­a­tions bills that fund govern­ment agen­cies.

“We have so much work still to do, and the House will con­tinue to fo­cus on is­sues that are im­por­tant to the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said, adding that he is “dis­ap­pointed and frus­trated” by the Se­nate’s botched health care ef­fort. “At the top of that list is cut­ting taxes for mid­dle class fam­i­lies and fix­ing our bro­ken tax code.”

It’s a daunt­ing to-do list. And for the most part, suc­cess wouldn’t bring a po­lit­i­cal pay-off. In­stead, the re­ward is fore­stalling dis­as­ters such as a first-ever de­fault on U.S. obli­ga­tions and a po­lit­i­cally bruis­ing govern­ment shut­down.

“We’ll come back. We’ll start our tax. We’ll do our (ap­pro­pri­a­tions). We’ve got a bud­get. We’ve got a lot of work still to do,” said House Ma­jor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “We’re not go­ing to give up on health care. We’re go­ing to have to take a dif­fer­ent route … once the Se­nate is able to wake up and re­al­ize what they did and come back to their senses.”

One ob­vi­ous need is short­term spend­ing leg­is­la­tion, called a con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion or CR in Wash­ing­ton-speak, to pre­vent a par­tial govern­ment shut­down on Oct. 1. GOP lead­ers hope the stop­gap mea­sure will pass with ease, but it’s likely to be a ve­hi­cle to ex­tend other ex­pir­ing pro­grams.

The stop­gap spend­ing bill would keep the govern­ment’s doors open; in­creas­ing the debt limit is re­quired to pay obli­ga­tions like in­ter­est pay­ments on the debt, So­cial Se­cu­rity ben­e­fits, and pay­ments to govern­ment con­trac­tors. De­fault­ing on such obli­ga­tions could have dras­tic con­se­quences for credit mar­kets and the econ­omy, but it’s a toxic vote for most Repub­li­cans.

Democrats largely pro­vided the votes for re­cent debt in­creases but Trump’s vic­tory com­pli­cates the po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­lus and prob­a­bly means that more Repub­li­cans are go­ing to have to step up.

“Septem­ber is go­ing to be a very dif­fi­cult month. Ob­vi­ously all of this is com­ing into play right away,” said House Free­dom Cau­cus Chair­man Mark Mead­ows, R-N.C.

Mead­ows’ hard-right Free­dom Cau­cus is among the play­ers in an im­passe among Repub­li­cans on the bud­get. The non­bind­ing mea­sure, once passed by both House and Se­nate, can set the ta­ble for this fall’s over­haul of the na­tion’s tax code, al­low­ing it to ad­vance through the Se­nate with­out fear of a fil­i­buster by Democrats. But con­ser­va­tives are press­ing for spend­ing cuts as well, which has sparked an­other spit­ting match with GOP mod­er­ates.

House Repub­li­cans mus­cled through a hy­brid four-bill spend­ing mea­sure on Thurs­day, giv­ing the Pen­tagon a more than $70 bil­lion bud­get in­crease over a set of bud­get “caps” left over from a 2011 bud­get deal. There’s bi­par­ti­san sup­port to in­crease these so-called se­ques­tra­tion spend­ing lev­els but to do so would re­quire Capi­tol Hill GOP lead­ers and top Se­nate Demo­crat Charles Schumer of New York — and the Trump White House — to ne­go­ti­ate a new bud­get deal.

Schumer told re­porters Fri­day that he’s ea­ger to fig­ure out a Septem­ber bud­get pact, and hopes it will fol­low the bi­par­ti­san tem­plate of this spring’s wrap-up spend­ing bill.

“No muss, no fuss. I hope the same thing will hap­pen when we deal with the is­sues of bud­get and ap­pro­pri­a­tions, and fund­ing the govern­ment next time,” Schumer said. “And how debt ceil­ing plays into that, we’ll wait and see.”

First in the Se­nate would be a de­fense pol­icy bills that’s a top pri­or­ity of Ari­zona GOP Sen. John McCain, re­cently di­ag­nosed with brain can­cer. GOP lead­ers had hoped to smooth pas­sage of the mea­sure next week, but Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., ob­jected, and McCain headed back to Ari­zona for treat­ment.

A spokesman for Paul, Ser­gio Gor, said the sen­a­tor wanted con­sid­er­a­tion of two amend­ments, one on end­ing in­def­i­nite de­ten­tion and the other on the au­tho­riza­tion of the use of mil­i­tary force. Paul planned to work with lead­er­ship on se­cur­ing ac­tion on his mea­sures.

“We’re look­ing at a whole lot of work,” said Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga. “We’re go­ing to have to get in and bear down and I hope the mem­bers are aware of that when we get back.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.