The House of Representatives left town for the start of its summer recess last week, with the Senate following yesterday evening after finishing up some executive confirmations, including confirming Peter Oppenheim as Assistant Secretary of Education for Legislation and Congressional Affairs. When Congress returns following the Labor Day holiday, the House and Senate have only 12 legislative days in session together before the end of the current fiscal year, yet a host of pressing issues to address.
At the top of the agenda when Congress returns from recess are appropriations for fiscal year 2018, which begins on October 1st, and raising the country’s debt ceiling by September 29th or risking default. Some action has been taken on individual appropriations bills for FY 2018, but Congress is likely to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through later this year to allow more time for negotiations over spending levels.
Negotiations for raising the debt ceiling are ongoing but made difficult by increasing division within the Republican Party. Congressional leadership hopes to pass a “clean” debt ceiling increase, but many conservative Republicans are calling for the measure to be accompanied by spending cuts or fiscal reforms, meaning leadership will inevitably need Democratic support to pass the measure.
In addition, although President Trump is still urging Congress to work on passing healthcare legislation, most Republicans have turned their attention to one of the Administration’s other key legislative priorities – tax reform – following the failed healthcare repeal attempt last week.
As has become commonplace in recent years, lawmakers will be working until the last minute to avoid a government shutdown – and this year, a major debt default – along with balancing other administrative priorities, leaving little time for other legislative action.
Sean Sullivan, “Recess Just Started for Congress, and it’s Not Going to be Much Fun for Republicans,” Washington Post, August 3, 2017.
Seung Min Kim and Rachel Bade, “GOP Clash Looms Over Raising the Debt Ceiling,” Politico, August 3, 2017.