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2chambers
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 09/10/2012

5 things to watch this week in Congress: Continuing resolution, Farm Bill, Jesse Jackson Jr., Violence Against Women Act, Postal Service — and demonstrations of bipartisanship


(J. Scott Applewhite/ - Associated Press)
Thirteen.

That’s how many days remain on the legislative calendar between this week and Election Day, leaving lawmakers precious little time to complete several pressing issues, including the passage of a stopgap budget, drought relief for struggling farmers and a way to replace trillions of dollars in budget cuts set to take effect early next year.

Here’s a look at the week ahead in Congress, based on official voting schedules and conversations with senior House and Senate aides:

1.) Continuing resolution: The fiscal year ends on Sept. 30 and Congress is expected to pass a six-month stopgap spending measure in the next two weeks — with the House going first, followed by the Senate sometime next week after the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

The deal is expected to set government spending at no more than $1.047 trillion, as agreed to in a debt deal this summer. The amount is a slight increase over this year’s level of $1.043 trillion. During interviews last week at the Democratic National Convention, Sens. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said they expect to have sufficient Democratic support to pass the plan — so the bigger question is: How many fiscally conservative Republicans will vote against the deal? Some conservatives insist that Congress should push federal spending to a level consistent with the budget written by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan (Wis.), the House budget chairman, who set agency spending in his plan at $1.028 trillion for the year.

2.) Farm Bill: During last month’s 5in5 Project, several voters and lawmakers expressed frustration that Congress did not extend and fund agricultural programs before the congressional recess. With dozens of states reeling from a historic drought — and many of those states home to some of the most competitive House and Senate races — both parties feel compelled to address farming, food and agricultural policy issues before leaving town for Election Day. Protests by farmers on Wednesday on Capitol Hill might also help.

The Senate passed a bipartisan farm bill in June, but the House has yet to act amid Republican disagreement over spending levels and farm policy. Those eager to quickly pass a one-year extension of farm policy, take note: A farm bill extension could be added as an amendment to the must-pass continuing resolution, Roll Call reported Sunday.

3.) What else gets a vote?: Other items on the congressional to-do list include: Senate passage of a veterans jobs bill; a measure that would normalize trade relations with Russia (which might include strict punishment for Russian officials accused of human rights abuses); reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act; competing bills to restructure the U.S. Postal Service; possible resolution of long-standing disagreements over cybersecurity; consideration of several tax measures; and a Senate Democratic mortgage relief bill. Could any of these issues be resolved before Election Day? Aides say there’s not much hope. And then keep an eye on Senate Democratic leaders, who might decided to hold another up-or-down vote on the Ryan budget, which would put moderate Senate Republicans in the tricky position of voting for or against a spending plan authored by their vice presidential nominee.

4.) Jesse Jackson Jr. returns to Washington: He hasn’t been to a committee meeting since late May and hasn’t voted since early June, but the Chicago-area congressman is back with his family in D.C. after spending more than a month at the Mayo Clinic for treatment of depression. Aides said they’re unsure whether Jackson will appear on Capitol Hill this week to resume his official duties. When he does, reporters are likely to track his every move.

5.) Bipartisanship get-togethers: With voters griping about the lack of bipartisan comity on Capitol Hill, three scheduled events in the next two weeks should provide congressional leaders an opportunity to present at least the appearance that they’re trying to get along. On Tuesday, lawmakers plan to mark the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by gathering at the same spot on the steps of the U.S. Capitol where lawmakers sang “God Bless America” in the hours after the attacks. On Wednesday, they’ll gather for a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony for pro golfer Arnold Palmer. Ditto the following week, when a similar Gold Medal ceremony will be held for Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Honorable mention: In case you missed them, check out these video interviews that 2chambers conducted last week at the DNC with leading congressional Democrats:

1.) Sen. Charles E. Schumer on which New York Democrat should run for president in 2016

2.) Sen. Richard J. Durbin on Obama’s commitment to bipartisanship

3.) Rep. Chris Van Hollen on his favorite Republicans — and how he’s prepping for Biden’s debate prep

4.) House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer says that Democrats believe “we’re not where we want to be”

5.) Mark Warner on being a senator: “There are some times...when I’m frustrated”

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Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

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By  |  06:00 AM ET, 09/10/2012

 
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