The September Sprint in Congress

Labor Day marks the end of summer – a time when kids go back to school, public pools close, vacations cease, and Congress goes back in session after a long recess.  While the Senate did remain in session over much of August, not everyone showed up for votes and they made little progress on approving nominations or passing appropriations bills.

Congress has a long list of priorities for the next few weeks.  A fiscal deadline is looming, and they have to pass a budget by September 30th in order to keep the government open.  Appropriators expect to send at least five of the twelve spending bills to the President by the end of the month as part of a minibus package (instead of a single spending bill), but a continuing resolution will likely be necessary to fund the rest of the government. In addition to fiscal year 2019 funding, the 56 members of the House and Senate appointed to the Farm Bill Conference Committee will continue to hash out the differences between each chamber’s bill.  Work requirements on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients which were included in the House passed bill, but not in the Senate, are one of the major points of contention.  An agreement needs to reached by October 1st.

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is also due for reauthorization and expires on September 30th.  While House Republicans, particularly Speaker Paul Ryan have released proposals to make changes to the program, the Senate has seemed uninterested and TANF will likely be renewed again under a continuing resolution without any changes.

The Senate will be spending the month contending with Brett Kavanugh’s Supreme Court nomination, while the House is expected to mark-up and eventually vote on a second phase of tax legislation being referred to as Tax 2.0.  The measure would make all individual changes in last year’s overhaul permanent, including the $10,000 limit on state and local tax deductions.  Goodwill Industries International continues to seek a universal charitable deduction which will counter the negative impact on charitable giving expected as a result of the new tax law.

As the mid-term election draws near, Congress won’t be spending much time in Washington, DC past September.  The House is only scheduled to be in session for eight days during the first two weeks of October, and while the Senate is scheduled to be in session that month, they will likely “give back” at least a couple of weeks.  That could push several major legislative decisions to the “lame duck” Congress post-election.