(Brendan Smialowski/GETTY IMAGES)

Both chambers are back this week following an August recess that saw the formation of the 12-member debt supercommittee, the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating and a Federal Aviation Administration funding battle that went into overtime (and looks to ramp up again later this month).

What’s next on Congress’s agenda?

Several familiar battles will play out this month – notably on FAA funding and a ground transportation bill as well as on appropriations and federal regulations. There are also three long-stalled trade pacts with South Korea, Panama and Colombia that may reach the floor in the coming weeks.

This first week back in Washington will be a pivotal one for both Congress and the White House. Obama is set to give a much-anticipated jobs speech Thursday night, hours after the debt supercommittee holds its first meeting. All eyes will be on whether Obama lays out a detailed plan to jump-start the lagging economy. But the venue for the address – Obama’s fifth to a joint session of Congress -- is as significant as the substance of the speech itself.

Nearly two years ago to the day, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) made headlines when he shouted out, “You lie!” during Obama’s health care address before a joint session. And the last time Obama talked policy before a crowd that included Republican House leaders – his April address on the debt at George Washington University – the president devoted much of his time to criticizing House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) 2012 budget blueprint, leaving House GOP leadership fuming.

Will Thursday’s speech see similar confrontations between Obama and congressional Republicans? The venue (a joint session as opposed to an Oval Office address) as well as the sharply divergent views of both parties when it comes to the economy would seem to suggest so. But at a time when both Obama and Congress are languishing in public opinion polls, can either side afford to take that risk?

Here’s a closer look at the week ahead:


The Senate is in session at 2 p.m. for morning business. At 5 p.m., members will begin 30 minutes of debate on the nomination of Bernice Donald to serve as U.S. circuit judge, with a vote expected at 5:30 p.m. A roll call vote on ending debate on H.R. 1249, the Patent Reform Bill, is expected to follow. The House meets at 10 a.m. for a brief “pro forma” session, during which no legislative business is conducted.

Committee hearings/other events:

7:30 a.m.: No Labels holds a briefing with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget President Maya MacGuineas to discuss “the problems of hyper-partisanship in Washington and the actions needed to break political gridlock.”

10 a.m.: Transportation Security Administration Administrator John Pistole discusses “The Evolution of Aviation Security since 9/11” in an address to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

10:30 a.m.: The Brookings Institution hosts a discussion titled, “What It Means to be American: New Poll Explores Attitudes in an Increasingly Diverse America.”

1 p.m.: Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) discusses the state of U.S. security in the 10 years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, at a National Press Club luncheon speech.

1:30 p.m.: Business Roundtable holds a discussion on “Meeting the Challenges of Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction” at the Newseum. Among those expected to speak are Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget President Maya MacGuineas; American Action Forum President Douglas Holtz-Eakin; Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Alice Rivlin and Center for American Progress President John Podesta.

2 p.m.: A Senate Appropriations subcommittee holds a markup of the fiscal year 2012 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.

2 p.m.: U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe and others testify at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on “U.S. Postal Service in Crisis: Proposals to Prevent a Shutdown.”

2:30 p.m.: The Senate Banking Committee holds a hearing on the nominations of Richard Cordrary to serve as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and of Patricia Loui and Larry Walther to serve on the Board of Directors of the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

3 p.m.: A Senate Appropriations subcommittee holds a markup of the fiscal year 2012 Homeland Security Appropriations bill.

3 p.m.: CSIS hosts a forum on “Beyond New START: Advancing U.S. National Security Through Arms Control with Russia.”


The Senate is in session. The House is in at 2 p.m. for legislative business. At 6:30 p.m., votes are expected on three non-controversial measures under suspension of the rules, meaning that a two-thirds majority is needed for passage: H.Con.Res. 67, authorizing the use of the Capitol Grounds for the D.C. Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run; H.R. 2061, the Civilian Service Recognition Act of 2011; and H.R. 2831, a measure to extend the Generalized System of Preferences.

Committee hearings/other events:

7 a.m.: The Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Intelligence and National Security Alliance’s Homeland Security Intelligence Council hold a discussion at the Ronald Reagan Building on “The Evolving Terrorist Threat and the Importance of Intelligence to Protect the Homeland.” Among the expected speakers are Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), former Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend, CSIS CEO John Hamre, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and former ambassador and director of national intelligence John Negroponte.

9 a.m.: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce holds its quarterly economic briefing.

9:30 a.m.: Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) delivers remarks at an “Energy Jobs” summit hosted by The Hill in HVC-201 at the Capitol Visitor Center. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) speaks at 11 a.m.

10 a.m.: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of Wendy Sherman to be undersecretary for political affairs at the State Department.

10 a.m.: The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on Cybercrime: Updating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to Protect Cyberspace and Combat Emerging Threats.”

12:15 p.m.: The New America Foundation holds a discussion on “Reflections on the Post-9/11 Decade.” Participants include Peter Bergen, director of the NAF National Security Studies Program; NAF President Steve Coll; and Susan Glasser, editor-in-chief of “Foreign Policy.”

1 p.m.: The Heritage Foundation holds a screening of the film, “The Path to 9/11.”

2 p.m.: The Middle East Institute and International Relief and Development hold a discussion on “Rebuilding Libya: A Status Report on the Humanitarian Situation on the Ground” at the National Press Club.

3:30 p.m.: Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) delivers remarks on “Paying for Defense” at the ComDef 2011 conference at the National Press Club.

5 p.m.: The House Rules Committee meets to formulate a rule on H.R.2218, the “Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act”; and H.R.1892, the “Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.”


The Senate is in session. The House is in session at 10 a.m. to consider H.R. 2218, the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act. The chamber is expected to recess by 4 p.m. for a security sweep. At 7 p.m., both chambers will meet in joint session to receive an address by President Obama on jobs and the economy.

Committee hearings/other events:

8:45 a.m.: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan speak at the Treasury Department’s Counter-Terrorist Financing Symposium, “Ten Years Later: Progress and Challenges in Combating Terrorist Financing Since 9/11.”

9 a.m.: The Center for National Policy; and the Voices of September 11th hold an event at the Newseum on “The 9/11 Tenth Anniversary Summit: Remembrance, Renewal, Resilience,” commemorating the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and others deliver remarks.

9 a.m.: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) discusses “Progress and Challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” in a speech to the U.S. Institute of Peace.

9 a.m.: The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments holds a discussion at the National Press Club “to assess the impact of 9/11.”

9:30 a.m.: The Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing on “Tax Reform Options: International Issues.”

10 a.m.: The House Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on “The Future of National Defense and the U.S. Military Ten Years After 9/11: Perspectives from Former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

10 a.m.: The House Homeland Security Committee holds a hearing on “The Attacks of September 11th: Where are We Today.”

10 a.m.: The House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on “Creating American Jobs by Harnessing Our Resources: U.S. Offshore and Renewable Energy Production.”

10:30 a.m.: House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking Democrat Rep. Howard Berman (Calif.) discusses “Empty Wallets at Home, Crises Abroad” at the American Enterprise Institute.

10:30 a.m.: The debt-reduction “supercommittee” holds its first organizational meeting in Room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

11 a.m.: Religious leaders hold an event at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church to “Remember 9/11, Mourn Victims, Promote Religious Freedom.”

12:30 p.m.: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.); and Reps. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), Duncan Hunter Jr. (R-Calif.) and Allen West (R-Fla.) discuss “Defending Defense: Defense Spending and the Supercommittee,” at a briefing in B-339 Rayburn House Office Building. The event is hosted by the Heritage Foundation, the Foreign Policy Initiative and the American Enterprise Institute.

2 p.m.: A Senate Judiciary subcommittee holds a hearing on “New State Voting Laws: Barriers to the Ballot?”

2 p.m.: The House Ways and Means Committee holds a hearing on “Improving Work and Other Welfare Reform Goals.”

2 p.m.: A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee holds a hearing on “Addressing the Humanitarian Emergency in East Africa.”


The Senate is in session. The House is in session at 9 a.m. to consider the 2012 Intelligence Authorization Act and a resolution relating to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Last votes are expected by 3 p.m.

Committee hearings/other events:

9 a.m.: Former Vice President Dick Cheney; and Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard participate in a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute on “Ten Years After: Lessons Learned, Lessons Unlearned” regarding the Sept.11, 2001, terror attacks.

9 a.m.: The United States Institute of Peace hosts a discussion on “Media in Conflict: The Evaluation Imperative.”

9:30 a.m.: A House Ways and Means subcommittee holds a hearing on “Health Care Industry Consolidation.”

10 a.m.: A House Armed Services subcommittee holds a hearing on the current status of suicide prevention programs in the military.

10 a.m.: The House Financial Services Committee holds a hearing on exposure of U.S. banks to the European Union’s debt crisis.

10 a.m.: The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund holds a Law Enforcement Heroes of 9/11 remembrance ceremony.

Noon: The Heritage Foundation holds a discussion on “A Constitutional President: Ronald Reagan and the Founding.”

Noon: The National Archives holds a discussion on “10th anniversary of 9/11.”

1 p.m.: The National Policy Institute holds a news conference at the National Press Club on “The Majority Strategy: Why the GOP Must Win White America for Victory in 2012.”

1:30 p.m.: The Brookings Institution holds a discussion on “Japan’s Recovery Six Months after the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Crisis.”

2:30 p.m.: George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs holds a discussion on “Reconstruction and Beyond: The Great East Japan Earthquake and Its Implications.”

7 p.m.: The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs holds a book discussion on “The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists.”

7:30 p.m.: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks at “A Concert to Honor” -- a memorial concert “dedicated to the victims of 9/11 and the nearly 6,000 troops who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” – at the Washington National Cathedral.

8 p.m.: The National Press Club hosts a Kalb Report discussion featuring former ABC anchor Charles Gibson; former CBS anchor Dan Rather; Fox News Channel’s Brit Hume; and Frank Sesno, former CNN Washington bureau chief, who discuss “Anchoring 9/11: The Day and the Decade.”