This week: Congress returns for pre-election sprint

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Capitol Hill is back in session on Tuesday after resembling a ghost town for the last two months.

Members of Congress are returning for the first time after the seven-week summer recess with one primary task looming: keeping the government’s lights on past the end of this month.

Republicans in both the House and Senate are expected to discuss their options this week regarding the length of a stopgap funding bill, also known as a continuing resolution (CR).

{mosads}Senate Democrats are pledging to block a short-term spending deal that stretches into next year, effectively ruling out the six-month proposal preferred by the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

“We are not doing anything into next year and the Republicans should be made aware of that right now,” Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters last week.

Conservatives have pitched a longer spending measure in an effort to skip a post-election lame-duck session. They worry President Obama, and Democrats, will use the end-of-the-year stretch to push through 11th hour proposals in a catchall omnibus spending package.

Reid noted that his staff have been discussing with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) staff on how to find the government, but didn’t offer details on the talks. 

With just three weeks left until the funding deadline, the Senate is expected to continue pushing forward with individual spending bills.

Senators are scheduled to take another procedural vote on a stand-alone Defense Department appropriations bill on Tuesday evening. Democrats, however, are expected to block the measure for a third time. 

House Republicans will head into their first conference meeting on Wednesday divided on how long a continuing resolution should be. While Freedom Caucus members and some of the rank-and-file favor a longer extension, appropriators and others think the GOP will have more leverage in a lame-duck than next year if they end up losing seats in the election.

Both the House and Senate are scheduled to be in session through the end of this month. But if lawmakers pass a CR before Sept. 30, it’s possible leaders in both chambers will adjourn early like in past years to give members more time on the campaign trail.


The Senate will return to a stalled fight over combating the Zika virus with lawmakers stalemated despite a crop of new cases over the summer break.

Lawmakers are expected to take a third vote on a House-passed $1.1 billion proposal to combat the Zika virus.

Democrats — who previously blocked the bill twice — are expected to oppose it a third time over concerns about how it’s paid for and a provision on funding for Planned Parenthood.

Instead, they repeatedly called on Republicans to return to Washington to pass the Senate’s original deal by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.). 

The measure also includes $1.1 billion for fighting the virus. But the measure isn’t offset with other spending cuts or tax hikes and would add to the deficit, which has earned it pushback from some House Republicans.

McConnell, noting that he’s sticking with the House proposal, argues it’s the fastest way to get money to Obama’s desk.

IRS commissioner impeachment

Members of the Freedom Caucus want a vote this month on their resolution to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

Reps. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) — who lost his primary last month — and John Fleming (R-La.) filed a “privileged” resolution on the House’s last day in session before the summer recess.

Privileged resolutions must be acted on within two legislative days under House rules. But the Freedom Caucus may have to re-file the resolution in the coming days since the House has held pro forma sessions over the break.

Freedom Caucus members think Koskinen should be impeached because they believe he wasn’t forthcoming with documents during a congressional investigation of the agency’s scrutiny over conservative nonprofits.

But GOP leadership is wary of allowing a vote on the resolution, given that the House has only voted one other time in history to impeach a Cabinet-level official. That was in 1876 to impeach Secretary of War William Belknap. 

In the meantime, the House is expected to consider four financial services bills this week as well as a measure to reform the Bureau of Ocean Management’s offshore leasing process. 

Tags Harry Reid John Fleming Mitch McConnell Patty Murray Roy Blunt

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