The U.S. Congress returned from its month-long August recess Sept. 10 with no shortage of items on its to-do list.
Republicans in the House of Representatives plan to vote Sept. 13 on a continuing resolution that would cover the costs of federal operations through April, 2013. To avoid a government shutdown, a continuing resolution must be passed by Sept. 30. The Senate is expected to take up the measure the following week. House Republican leaders have no interest in an election-eve shutdown threat, and they have already agreed to continue current federal funding levels set in last summer's Budget Control Act.
Republican senators could propose delaying tax hikes associated with the “fiscal cliff” for one year while Congress studies a tax-code overhaul, as Senate minority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has urged. But Democratic leadership aides said that majority leader, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), will not allow votes on amendments unrelated to the only upcoming bill, a measure for veteran’s health. That means Reid will likely file cloture this week, testing whether Republicans will risk blocking it on procedural grounds.
Meanwhile, a report detailing cuts imposed by the dreaded upcoming sequester that was due to Congress has been delayed. The Office of Management and Budget is still working on its report on the effects of sequestration, originally due by Sept. 6. The White House has said it needs more time, given the complexity of outlining the way the cuts would affect all federal agencies.
While Congress was out of session, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a gloomy statement regarding the sequester, saying “In the CBO’s judgment, the sharp increase in federal taxes and reductions in federal spending that, under current law, are scheduled to begin in the calendar year 2013, are likely to interrupt the recent economic progress, resulting in what probably could be considered a recession.”