The second is the House Republican plan to pass their cut, cap and balance bill. Their bill would cut spending in FY 2012, cap spending over the next decade, and require passage of an amendment to the Constitution before Treasury can borrow anything above the current debt limit.

Part of the problem with the GOP plan is that it asks for a lot and gives Congress about two weeks to pull it off. As House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) pointed out this week, there may not be time for this plan before the U.S. bumps up against the debt ceiling on August 2.

All of which makes the third track more likely: a Senate Republican proposal to simply give President Obama the authority to raise the debt ceiling in three tranches, tied to some level of spending cuts. The Senate is expected in the middle of next week to reveal more proposals about this plan.

With all of this going on in the background, both the House and Senate continue their work on 2012 spending bills next week.

In the House, members are expected to consider a bill funding the Treasury Department and other financial agencies for FY 2012. The bill cuts nearly $2 billion compared to FY 2011 spending levels, including nearly $1 billion in cuts to Treasury alone.

Also up is a spending bill for the legislative branch, which cuts $227 million compared to FY 2011 levels. Members will also consider a bill to (once again) extend airport and airway taxes, this time for about two months, a sign that Republicans and Democrats are still unable to make any headway toward a longer-term extension.

The House will also take up a bill changing last year's Dodd-Frank financial reform law. Republicans want to make it easier for the new Financial Stability Oversight Council to overturn regulations issued by the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The Senate returns to continue work on the military construction, veterans affairs and related agencies spending bill.

Below is a more detailed look at the week ahead:


The House meets at noon for speeches and 2 p.m. to consider bills H.R. 33 under a suspension of the rules. This bill would broaden current law that allows church pension plans to invest in collective trusts. A vote is expected at 6:30 p.m.; a two-thirds majority will be required for passage.

The Senate meets at 2 p.m. to work on the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, H.R. 2055, which it will consider for much of the week. A vote on J. Paul Oetken to be U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York is expected, and the Senate is in for the rest of the week.


House meets at 10 a.m. for speeches and noon to take up the "Cut, Cap and Balance" bill, H.R. 2560.


The House meets at 10 a.m. for speeches and noon to consider H.R. 2553, which would extend airport and airway taxes. Also expected is consideration of H.J.Res. 66, a resolution approving the extension of import restrictions in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act.

Thursday and Friday

The House meets Thursday at 10 a.m. for speeches and noon for legislative work, and is expected to take up two bills over the next two days.

One is H.R. 1315, the Consumer Financial Protection Safety and Soundness Improvement Act. This bill aims to limit the ability of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to set what Republicans fear would be onerous regulations. The other is H.R. 2551, the 2012 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act.

When the House meets Friday to consider either or both of these bills, it will meet at 9 a.m., and no votes are expected past 3 p.m.