Congress departs for recess until after Election Day

Greg Nash
The House and Senate adjourned late Wednesday night upon averting a government shutdown, cutting lawmakers loose until after Election Day.
Both chambers are slated to return in six weeks, on Monday, Nov. 14.
{mosads}Members of both parties have been eager to return home as soon as possible so they can campaign for reelection. 
Congress returned earlier this month from a seven-week summer recess with the expectation of departing once a deal was reached to keep the government funded past this Friday.
But negotiations between Senate leaders dragged on for weeks while lawmakers haggled over provisions like federal assistance for victims of flooding in Louisiana and lead water contamination in Flint, Mich., as well as funding to combat the spread of the Zika virus.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ultimately decided to play hardball and unveiled a spending bill last week. Democrats balked at its lack of aid for Flint while including funds for flood victims.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reached a deal late Tuesday night to include a provision authorizing $170 million for Flint in a water infrastructure bill which passed earlier Wednesday.
The assurances to include help for Flint in a final bicameral measure, likely to be completed in the lame-duck session, helped pave the way for averting a government shutdown with a short-term spending measure known as a continuing resolution (CR).
Lawmakers quickly set their sights on leaving for recess as soon as it became clear the spending bill could clear both chambers. 
The House passed the bill funding the government through Dec. 9 late Wednesday in a 342-85 vote after the Senate easily approved it earlier that afternoon. 
The House was originally slated to vote Thursday on a resolution to hold the former State Department staffer responsible for setting up Hillary Clinton’s private email server in contempt of Congress.
Yet House GOP leaders opted to postpone consideration until after Election Day, depriving Republicans of highlighting an issue that’s dogged Clinton in her presidential campaign. 
Congress will face a host of thorny issues when it returns after Election Day, primarily to avoid another shutdown on Dec. 9.
Ryan has called for passing smaller spending bills in order to avoid an all-encompassing “omnibus” right before the holidays. But conservatives are skeptical of that strategy, warning that Congress may still turn to an omnibus loaded with policy riders.
And some proponents of the Pacific Rim trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership are hoping that it might come up during the lame-duck session. But even Ryan, who supports trade deals, has said the House doesn’t have the votes to approve it.
Another item that could come up in the lame-duck is criminal justice reform, a priority of Ryan’s. The Speaker had originally pledged it would come up for a House vote this fall, but it ultimately didn’t make it to the floor this month despite surveying of the rank and file by GOP leadership.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate are also expected to hold their leadership elections in the lame-duck session.
Senate Democrats, for instance, will have to select a successor to retiring Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is favored to be formally chosen by his colleagues. 
Reid and other Democrats are hoping that Republicans might take up President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, in the lame-duck session, especially if Clinton wins the presidency. McConnell has repeatedly rejected the idea, maintaining that the next president should be responsible for filling the court vacancy.
Reid, while blocking legislation on experimental drugs for the terminally ill, blasted the light Senate calendar.
“We just finished a break. We’re going to take 10 more weeks,” he said. “I think we should have had a hearing on Merrick Garland.”
Democrats introduced a resolution Tuesday to block the Senate from adjourning for the rest of the year for more than two days, and subject any request to adjourn the Senate to a vote.
—Jordain Carney contributed. 
Tags Charles Schumer Harry Reid Hillary Clinton Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan

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