The August Congressional recess is well known as a time when DC commuters spend a little less time in traffic, Hill staffers can take lengthy vacations, and those who are in the office can be found in shorts and flip flops. However that isn’t the case this year, at least not on the Senate side. While the House of Representatives is in recess until September 4th, the Senate has only a scheduled a recess until August 15th. Allowing Senators two weeks to return to their home states to host town halls, conduct organizational site visits, and meet with constituents.
There are three main priorities for the Senate this month: nominations, the Farm Bill, and Appropriations. There 252 nominees are awaiting confirmation by the Senate, including Brett Kavanaugh who has been nominated to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. The Senate Judiciary Committee is sorting through over 1 million pages of documents from Kavanaugh’s career.
The 2014 Farm Bill expires on September 30, 2018. While both chambers have passed a version, a few senators tried to block the bill from going to conference. Just this week the Senate voted to approve the bill moving forward and now 47 House members and 9 Senators will try to work out the differences between the bills. The House and Senate versions may take a long time to resolve issues regarding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called food stamps. The House version would mandate adults between 18 and 59 who don’t qualify for an exemption to either work or participate in employment and training programs for a minimum of 20 hours a week on average per month. It would increase the minimum to 25 hours a week starting in fiscal 2026. The Senate version does not include work requirements.
In regard to appropriations, Government funding runs out on September 30, 2018. At the time of this writing, the House has passed 6 out of 12 appropriations bills and the Senate has passed 7 out of 12 appropriations bills. Similar to the Farm Bill, most bills must go to a conference committee to resolve differences. Many within the nonprofit sector, including Goodwill Industries®, are concerned with language included in one of the House passed spending bills that would weaken the enforcement of the Johnson Amendment, a provision that protects charitable nonprofits from engaging in partisan political activities. Be sure that you are enrolled in GII’s Legislative Action Center in order to receive updates around this important issue in addition to the need to protect federal funding for job-training and employment programs. President Trump has threatened to veto appropriations bills unless his immigration priorities are met, so your voice may be needed soon!