Last week’s deal between President Trump and Democratic leaders upended Congress’s schedule for the rest of September.
Now, with less than a dozen working days left this month, lawmakers have only a moderately insane amount of work to do rather than a truly insane amount of work to do.
The clearest benefit from Trump’s deal was to lift the pressure off Sept. 29 and 30, when the United States would have hit the debt ceiling and entered a partial government shutdown without intervention from lawmakers.
Besides pushing those tasks off until December (or even later on the debt ceiling, according to one Republican leader), the agreement extended a crucial federal flood insurance program and provided a $15.3 billion down payment on hurricane relief.
These might seem like big accomplishments — and they are. They’re just not the only time-sensitive items on Congress’s agenda. Postponing some business until December allows lawmakers to direct attention toward tasks that had briefly gone off the radar.
Here’s a guide to those tasks and when they must be finished, if there’s a deadline.
The current extension of the FAA expires Sept. 30, and lawmakers are eyeing the reauthorization process as an opportunity to enact reforms at the agency. The House is scheduled to vote soon on a bill that would privatize more than half of the FAA workforce, setting up a conflict with the Senate, where the Commerce Committee approved a bill without this dramatic change.
The funding for this federal-state partnership, which offers health insurance to nearly 9 million low-income children, expires Sept. 30.
If Congress does not provide new funds, programs might have to freeze enrollment amid budget shortfalls. Lawmakers are receiving pressure to act not only from children’s health advocates but also from officials in states battered by hurricanes, whose programs are likely to face new financial pressure from the storms.
From Trump on down, the Republican Party’s biggest policy objective for the fall is cutting taxes. It’s also the most complicated item on lawmakers’ agenda.
While members of the GOP agree on lowering corporate and individual rates, the White House and congressional leaders are split on which tax breaks to eliminate to make up the difference in federal revenue. Could the mortgage interest deduction fall by the wayside to fund Trump’s plan, as the president’s advisers have proposed? Or will Republican congressional leaders win out and find a way to preserve the popular deduction? It’s a high-stakes debate, full of unknowns.
The Senate could hold its final vote as early as this week on the nearly $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This would pave the way for negotiations with the House over the final bill, which lays out the Pentagon’s budget for 2018.
One wild card in the upper chamber? Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who is threatening to hold up the bill’s progress in an effort to force a vote on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A handful of blockbuster amendments, including one aiming to block Trump’s ban on transgender troops, are also expected to spark controversy.
The process is being led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is working despite his recent brain cancer diagnosis. (He’ll undergo treatments at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda while he’s in Washington, his office announced Tuesday.)
This is another area where Republicans are split. Cost-sharing reduction payments are designed to help insurers reduce out-of-pocket medical costs for patients with lower incomes on Obamacare’s insurance exchanges.
Some GOP lawmakers, including Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), want to fund the payments for several more years to help stabilize those exchanges. Others oppose the funding as a “bailout” for insurers.
The payments could be funded as part of a broader bipartisan compromise on health care. (HELP has been holding hearings as part of an effort to produce such a bill.) But whatever decision lawmakers come to, the health insurance industry hopes it happens quickly: health plans have to submit 2018 final premium rates within the next two weeks.
Congressional Democrats are intent on passing protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, or “dreamers,” following Trump’s move to end an Obama-era program shielding them from deportation. Calls to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, grew even louder last week after Trump’s deal with Democratic leaders failed to address the issue.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is working to build support for a bill protecting dreamers and said she hopes to use a procedural maneuver to force the House to vote on it later this month. Doing this will require help from at least two dozen Republicans.
Donald Trump Jr. met with Capitol Hill investigators last week about his 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
This was the latest major development in Congress’s three leading investigations into Trump associates’ ties to Russia — investigations that are expected to continue apace this fall as lawmakers seek to interview more members of Trump’s inner circle.
At least one committee chairman, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wants to wrap up his probe before the end of the year.
It’s a long-shot, but in Trump’s Washington, anything seems possible.
During the Oval Office meeting last week in which the president unexpectedly sided with Democrats, Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed to pursue a deal to eliminate Congress’s role in raising the debt ceiling by December.
This would be a significant development, depriving conservative Republicans of a source of leverage they’ve tried to use to reduce federal spending. But House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has indicated he’s against the idea, and his opposition could scuttle a potential deal.