Here is a quick review of the issues that need to be resolved, and what appears to be the likely path forward as of the date of this message when Congress returns from its August break on September 8. These challenges will make for a full and stressful remainder of the year for Members of Congress.
Iran Nuclear Deal: The first issues of business after the August break will be a Resolution of Disapproval of the Iran nuclear deal. It is widely anticipated that the House will pass a Resolution of Disapproval of the Iran deal. As of the time of this message, the Senate appears to be four votes short of filibuster proof majority in favor of a Resolution of Disapproval. These resolutions will be voted on or around September 17. If both chambers are able to pass a resolution of disapproval, then the President will veto the resolution of disapproval and the Congress will NOT be able to override his veto. The Iran deal will go forward.
Appropriations: Congress needs to pass 12 appropriations bills by September 30 in order to keep the government running. To date it has not passed a single one. Republicans and Democrats are fighting over spending levels for the Department of Defense and domestic spending programs. Until a bi-partisan agreement is reached on what those numbers should be, Senate Democrats will continue to block all of the 12 government funding bills. The House to date has passed six of the appropriations bill. It is anticipated that a temporary solution will be found to keep the government running through a continuing resolution to fund the government at last year’s agreed upon levels. The appropriations debate could spill into 2016, which is why it is unclear if new appropriations and spending levels will be provided for the government’s new fiscal year or not.
Debt limit: The US Treasury estimates the government will run out of money unless the debt limit is increased around the end of October. Remember it was the battle over raising the debt limit that brought about the budget sequestration deal. This, again, could be an acrimonious debate. This debate could further inflame tempers on budget issues to include the appropriations debate or it could be the vehicle that leads to a long-term budget deal that not only resolves the budget ceiling issue, but also provides the foundation for a solution on the appropriations bills, which may result in an omnibus appropriations bill being passed to cover FY 16.
Highway Trust Fund: Funding expires October 29. So this debate will likely be on-going with the debt-limit debate. Fun times. Both parties and both chambers agree that a long term solution is needed, but they are far apart on how to get to that long-term solution. There is also talk of tax reforming being tacked on to this bill in order to help pay for a long-term solution, but with both parties and chambers far apart, it does not seem likely that tax reform will be added to this debate.
Tax extenders: These expire at the end of the year and there will be an effort to renew them – even retroactively – meaning these extensions could slip into 2016.