Its feet tangled in money bills and its head in the political clouds, Congress will pop back into town Monday for another spin through its election-year revolving door.
With only two weeks of work scheduled between the Republican and Democratic convention recesses, the House will tackle billions of dollars in spending and program extension bills covering everything from agriculture to urban development.
Meanwhile, the Senate will try again to determine the fate of millions of acres of resource-rich Alaska wilderness in what some are calling the environmental battle of the century, devoting any extra time to its own pressing agenda of authorization and appropriations bills.
It will be a race against the legislative clock set against the backdrop of the congressional as well as the presidential sweepstakes.
As of Monday, only 42 workdays will remain before the scheduled Oct. 4 adjournment, and failure to finish in time could pose problems for nervous incumbents in a hurry to get home. The entire House and one-third of the Senate is up for election this fall. Republicans are pushing hard to slim down the Democratic majorities in both houses, and perhaps even wipe it out in the Senate.
In some cases, Carter administration policies may draw party crossfire in both houses.
President Carter's 6-month-old embargo on grain sales to the Soviet Union is a case in point. It has provoked bipartisan farm-state opposition in both the House and Senate.
In the House, there is even a pledge from Rep. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to try to attach a rider this week to a Commerce Department appropriation bill to bar further spending to enforce the embargo, which Carter imposed in January in retaliation for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Farmers, confronted with lower prices and profits, are claiming that the embargo has hurt them more than it has the Soviets. Republicans have made repeal of the embargo part of their 1980 platform.
Another case in point is the Democratic scramble to avoid choking on the dust of Republican tax cut proposals.
On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee will begin two weeks of hearings on a tax cut for 1981, followed Wednesday by Senate Finance Committee hearings on the same subject. Responding to Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan's call last month for a 10 percent tax cut for next year, combined with business investment incentives, the Senate already has instructed its Finance Committee to come up with a "responsible, targeted anti-inflationary" proposal by Sept. 3.
The ruffles and flourishes for the tax cut parade will all but drown out the discordant round of taps for a balanced budget, which Congress so painstakingly patched together last spring before the recession struck and made a deficit an apparent inevitability.
Even as Congress is wrapping up the roughly $10 billion package of spending cuts and revenue-raising measures that were designed to keep its first budget resolution in balance, it will be starting work on a second and theoretically final budget resolution that will almost surely contain a deficit.
Before it left town 2 1/2 weeks ago, the Senate approved $6.4 billion in spending cuts, the first such "reconciliation" action since the congressional budget control process was adopted six years ago. House committees have approved $6.2 billion in cuts, along with $4.2 billion in revenue measures, and the package is expected to win House approval next week.
But at the same time, both House and Senate budget committees will hold hearings this week on the second budget resolution, which is due before Oct. 1, the start of the 1981 fiscal year. The administration's midyear budget reestimate is scheduled for delivery to Congress Monday.
With only about two months of working days left before the start of the 1981 fiscal year, the House has passed only two of its 13 appropriations bills, including money for energy and water and for military construction. Also still pending is a long list of authorization bills in both the Senate and House.
Meanwhile, the Senate this week will be wrestling with the Alaska lands issue.
Legislation aimed at controlling nuclear waste also could come up in the Senate during the next two weeks, and the House will attempt completion of a bill to reduce regulation of the railroads, a version of which passed the Senate earlier this year.
The House also will take up the administration's youth jobs program, aimed at reducing high unemployment among low-income young people. The bill represents a small first step toward the only major innovation in Carter's legislative program for the year.