As Congress returns: Debt limit, appropriations

Of all the five-alarm fires brewing already in September, the debt limit might be the most pressing. Administration officials have indicated a desire for a “clean” (read: no policy changes to entitlement programs) bill. For a clean bill to pass the House, Democratic members will have to support that package as conservative members of the GOP caucus will not vote to raise the limit without the inclusion of entitlement reform in the package.

FY18 Appropriations

With the fiscal year ending September 30, 2017, the House has passed four appropriations bills and still has eight that have yet to make it across the floor. The Senate, for its part, has yet to pass any of its bills. Complicating the situation is President Trump’s desire to see included in the package funding for a wall along our southern border.

As talk of a government shutdown heats up, the expectation is that the House will wrap the remaining eight bills into a single package and send it to the Senate. Reports also indicate that the Senate has no intention of acting on it, or on the earlier package sent to them by the House. The expectation is for a continuing resolution to be debated that effectively allows the House and Senate more time to finish—or in some cases start—their work.

A must-pass Fall for Congress

To say Congress has a full plate as it returned to work this week doesn’t do the plate justice.

The August recess was, at best, tempestuous, as divisions between President Donald Trump, his party and, in particular, his party’s leaders were laid bare in his Twitter feed.

Hurricane Harvey’s historic devastation, and cost to clean up and rebuild, is just now coming into focus. And as members of Congress were packing their bags to return to Washington, the president gave them six months to address another highly emotional issue: his planned phase-out of DACA, which protects immigrants who were brought into the United States as children.

And while the GOP’s Affordable Care Act repeal-and-replace efforts were stymied in June, the Senate HELP Committee picks up the ball and will begin hearings on stabilizing the Obamacare markets—while the president threatens to withhold market stabilization payments.

On the foreign policy front, North Korea’s nuclear missile program has prompted a powerful response from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who in blunt language warned Kim Jong-un of total annihilation. Meanwhile, Venezuela teeters on the brink; ISIS, though facing setbacks, continues to fight; and, breaking with his campaign rhetoric, the president has decided to send more troops into Afghanistan.

Congress faces a list of must-pass bills. Here, Dentons’ Public Policy and Regulation Practice dives deep into the marquee issues awaiting the attention of Congress and the administration: