US lawmakers are getting back to work after a month-long summer break as the Senate returns this week and the House of Representatives returns to session next week.
With tight control of both chambers and some important items already ticked off on President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda, Democrats are aiming to pass several key new pieces of legislation. But they only have a few weeks before Congress steps down again so members can campaign ahead of the Nov. 3 midterm elections.
In what has now become almost an annual routine, US lawmakers will not reach agreement on spending bills before a September 30 deadline, when government funding runs out. Democrats and Republicans normally agree on a short-term continuing resolution, or CR, to keep the government going. It remains to be seen, however, whether this CR will cover the rest of the calendar year or perhaps even further.
Passage will also depend on the parties’ ability to agree on Biden’s request for $47 billion in additional funding, an amount that includes a further $13 billion for U.S. military and humanitarian assistance to the United States. Ukraine and $22.4 billion for continued efforts to combat COVID-19.
“Ukraine needs more help. We want to give it to them. And on monkeypox and COVID, we have to be prepared. We have always been prepared in this country. And it is shameful that Republicans are playing political games with this when the health of the nation is at stake,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday.
Republicans are hesitant to approve the Democrats’ new funding request, arguing the money should come from unused COVID funds instead.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters, “The cleaner the CR, the better. Ukraine is obviously a priority for most of us on both sides of the aisle. We will see what they are asking for and how much of it is really intended to help Ukraine fight the war.
The Dobbs v. Jackson of the United States Supreme Court earlier this summer, which struck down the constitutional right to abortion guaranteed for nearly 50 years by Roe v. Wade, sparked a wave of legislation that would protect other rights at the federal level.
Democratic Senators Tammy Baldwin and Kyrsten Sinema are scrambling to garner the Republican support needed to clear a 60-vote threshold to pass a bill protecting same-sex marriage. In June, the House passed similar legislation with the support of 47 Republicans.
“A vote on marriage equality will take place in the Senate in the coming weeks, and I hope there will be 10 Republicans to support it,” Schumer told reporters on Wednesday.
“We prefer to do it as a separate bill,” Schumer said, leaving open the possibility that it could be added to the CR, which would raise the stakes for Republicans by forcing them to shut down the government in order to block it.
January 6 survey
The select committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol is expected to resume hearings this month. Originally scheduled for just seven hearings earlier this summer, lawmakers extended their public inquiry into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, culminating in the worst attack on the Capitol in two centuries.
Republican Representative Liz Cheney – who lost her first bid for re-election to her congressional seat in August – has previously said Trump should face charges for his actions. The committee is expected to hear new testimony that came to light as a result of its work earlier this summer.
The Senate could also pass the Electoral College Reform Act clarifying the vice president’s role in certifying the results of a presidential election. The bipartisan legislation aims to prevent the misuse of an 1887 law that has come under scrutiny following the attack on the Capitol.
Other items on the agenda
Additionally, Democrats are expected to continue confirming Biden’s judicial nominees. And the so-called “gang of eight” top Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate and House could receive a classified briefing about Trump’s possession of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence.
As Democrats gain ground over Republicans in several key midterm races across the country, Schumer could decide to cancel the two-week Senate session in October to give members more time to campaign in their country of origin.