As Congress Leaves Town, the Fall Agenda Looms

August 4th, 2017

Congress officially limps into their summer recess today, leaving town with almost no legislative accomplishments despite GOP majority control of the House, Senate and White House.

The real news, however, is not what they leave behind. It’s what’s ahead. Consider what’s on the fall agenda for Congress when they return to town on September 5.

  • Government funding must be reauthorized by September 30
  • The debt ceiling (which controls the government’s ability to borrow money) must be raised by mid-October
  • The GOP hopes to complete tax reform by the White House imposed deadline of mid-November
  • Both House and Senate must pass a fiscal year 2018 budget by the end of September
  • The following programs that must be renewed before they expire on September 30:
    • Children’s Health Insurance Program
    • Authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration
    • National Flood Insurance Program
  • Another attempt to repeal (and possibly, replace) Obamacare

Consider that nearly all of these measures overcome the Senate’s filibuster – a process that can take up to 3 days before a single piece of legislation can actually be voted upon. And, if the House and Senate pass differing versions of some of these reauthorizations, the bills must go to conference to have their differences reconciled, and then again come before each body for approval.

No, you’re not crazy if you’re wondering how they’ll actually get any of this accomplished, and wait, why did they just leave for a month-long break?

More troubling (if that was possible) is that “governing by deadline” has actually resulted in far less sober minded policy considerations, amendments and deliberation. Rather, Congress has shown an inclination to toss all expiring programs into one massive bill, thousands of pages long, which they pass quickly, with little consideration.

Needless to say, massive bills don’t result in better policy outcomes, and are rife with opportunities for the lesser angels of congressional nature to operate unfettered – earmarks, bloated spending, and sideline dealmaking pop up all over the place.

At least one faction in the House of Representatives is suggesting that a debt ceiling increase and government funding be combined – making a giant effort to do everything at once a real possibility.

What could go wrong?