Thursday, December 14, 2017

Congress returns with pressing issues

Twelve. That's how many days remain on the legislative calendar between this week and Election Day, leaving members of Congress 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.

Congress returned Monday after a five-week recess. Here's a look at the days ahead in Congress, based on voting schedules and conversations with senior House and Senate aides:

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.

Farm bill. With dozens of states reeling from a historic drought, both parties feel compelled to address farming, food and agricultural policy issues before leaving town for Election Day. 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.

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; 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.

Jesse Jackson Jr. returns to Washington. He hasn't voted since June, but the Chicago congressman is back with his family in Washington after spending more than a month at the Mayo Clinic for treatment of depression.

Bipartisan get-togethers. With voters griping about the lack of bipartisan comity on Capitol Hill, three 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: a gathering today to mark the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks; a gathering on Wednesday 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.

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