After a five-week recess, the Senate is back next Tuesday. The House is back next Wednesday. Here are five things to keep an eye on as both chambers return to Washington:
The debt “supercommittee”: The bipartisan 12-member panel is likely to begin its work in earnest next week. Democrats are set to hold their first in-person meeting (Republicans held a lengthy meeting of their own on the Hill this week), and the group as a whole has until Sep. 16 to hold its first formal gathering. Will President Obama use his speech next Thursday to urge the supercommittee to move in a specific direction when it comes to finding the $1.5 trillion in deficit savings the panel is charged with identifying before Thanksgiving?
Appropriations: One of Congress’ main priorities when it returns from recess is taking up its annual appropriations measures to keep the government running during the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. Leaders have expressed optimism that disputes over the measures will be kept to a minimum because of the $1.043 trillion funding figure specified in the debt deal that was signed into law by President Obama last month, but there are certain to be some lawmakers pressing for deeper cuts.
Federal regulations: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) this week detailed Republicans’ plans for a fall agenda that focuses largely on repealing federal environmental and labor regulations. Among the measures to be taken up by the House this month are a bill aimed at overruling the National Labor Relations Board ruling on Boeing and legislation to repeal Environmental Protection Agency regulations. The official House schedule for next week is expected to be released later today.
Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization: The battle over FAA funding – which led to a partial shutdown of the agency this summer after both sides hit a bitter stalemate – is set to ramp up again when lawmakers return next week. The stopgap reauthorization bill approved by both chambers last month is set to expire Sept. 16, and both parties remain at odds over funding of rural air service programs as well as the broader issue of unionization of airline workers: Democrats are calling for a “clean” reauthorization while Republicans want to pass a measure that would scale back spending.
Transportation funding: Just as a compromise on the FAA bill has eluded both parties, so too does agreement on a surface transportation bill that is on track to expire Sept. 30. House Republicans favor a plan that would rein in spending, while the White House has argued that both that measure and a failure by Congress to pass a “clean” bill could result in the loss of thousands of jobs. Progress on construction projects across the country could also be at stake if the impasse is not cleared. Both chambers are only in session until Sept. 23, meaning that if lawmakers don’t work out a compromise before then, the transportation debate – much like the FAA battle — will be headed into overtime.