The big day is Wednesday, when both the House and Senate are scheduled to take up the three FTAs and the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill.
The FTAs date back almost a full decade — they were negotiated as part of a Bush administration initiative to help give countries a reason to negotiate in the World Trade Organization for a broader, multilateral agreement that would hopefully stabilize the world economy after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The WTO talks fizzled out, but the U.S. was able to finalize several FTAs nonetheless.
However, the Colombia, Panama and South Korea agreements were finished after Democrats recaptured the House and Senate, which threw them into limbo for several years.
After three years of delaying the deals, the Obama administration finally appeared motivated to move the FTAs forward because of the expiration of TAA and the growing pressure to take every possible step in the name of creating jobs.
Trade will also be the topic of an ongoing Senate debate on legislation that would pressure China to let its currency appreciate more quickly. Debate on this bill this week morphed into a free-wheeling discussion about how neither party is satisfied with how members are considering bills, and led Democrats to limit the right of the minority Republicans to hold up progress on legislation.
After a long weekend in which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hopes the Senate will cool off, senators are expected to vote on final passage of the currency bill. However, House Republicans continue to insist that they will not consider the bill.
Similarly, the Senate is also expected to hold a vote to end debate on Obama's jobs bill, the American Jobs Act. The Senate bill is different from Obama's proposal in that it strips out taxes on oil companies and families earning more than $250,000, and replaces that language with a 5.6 percent tax on income above $1 million.
This bill also is not expected to be taken up in the House, even if it were to pass the Senate.
Elsewhere, the House plans to pass a bill that would further restrict the use of federal funds for health programs that support abortion, and also take up another bill limiting the Environmental Protection Agency.
Below is a more detailed look at the week ahead:
Both the House and Senate are out for the Columbus Day holiday.
The Senate meets at 2 p.m., and at 5:30 will vote on the nomination of Jane Triche-Milazzo to be a district court judge for the eastern district of Louisiana.
After that, the Senate will vote on passage of the currency bill, S. 1619, and then hold a vote to end debate on the modified version of Obama's jobs bill, S. 1660. The Senate is then in for the rest of the week to consider consideration of the jobs bill.
The House meets at 2 p.m. and will conclude work on H.R. 2250, the EPA Regulatory Relief act. It also plans to approve the rule governing debate on the trade bills.
The House also plans to debate legislation considered under a suspension of House rules; all votes are planned for 6:30 p.m. The suspension bills are:
H.R. 2433, the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act of 2011;
H.R. 2074, the Veterans Sexual Assault Prevention Act;
H.R. 2302, to amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to notify Congress of conferences sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs;
H.R. 2349, the Veterans' Benefits Training Improvement Act;
H.R. 1263, to amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to provide surviving spouses with certain protections relating to mortgages and mortgage foreclosures; and
H.R. 1025, to amend title 38, United States Code, to recognize the service in the reserve components of certain persons by honoring them with status as veterans under law.
The House meets at noon and takes up the four trade bills: H.R. 3078, the FTA with Colombia; H.R. 3079, the Panama FTA; H.R. 3080, the South Korea FTA; and H.R. 2832. That bill reauthorizes the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, allowing duty-free access to the U.S. market for dozens of countries, plus the Senate amendment that attached TAA.
The Senate plans to also consider the three FTA bills Wednesday, and has already approved the TAA bill.
The House meets at noon to consider H.R. 358, the Protect Life Act. The bill would prohibit any federal money from flowing to healthcare plans that include abortion coverage.
Also Thursday, the House will break at about 2:30 p.m. and reconvene at 4 p.m. to receive South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, in a joint meeting with the Senate. Passage of the trade bills is timed for Wednesday in large part to ensure they are completed in time for Lee's visit.
The House meets at 9 a.m. to take up H.R. 2273, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act. That will attempts to override pending EPA rules on coal ash.