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Congress Prepares for Busy Fall Agenda

Some hot-button issues are waiting for D.C. lawmakers

Lawmakers returning to Washington next week will have some hot-button issues to confront as well as several must-pass bills on the legislative agenda, including spending legislation to keep the government running past Sept. 30.

Congress will have just 13 days in session to avoid a government shutdown, making a short-term continuing resolution to temporarily extend current spending levels increasingly likely.

The House has passed 10 of its 12 annual appropriations bills but the Senate has passed none. Just before the August recess, Congress approved a two-year budget deal that sets overall spending levels and theoretically should make it easier to reach a broader agreement. But policy differences between the White House and Democrats in control of the House are likely to bog down negotiations.

President Donald Trump’s decision to divert billions of dollars from various government agencies for border wall construction and other projects along the U.S.-Mexico border sets the stage for a new round of fights when Congress returns. Trump and Defense Secretary Mark Esper this week announced cuts from more than 100 military projects that will be shifted to the border wall, but funds will also be diverted from FEMA’s disaster fund to be used for immigration proceedings and detention facilities along the border. Trump said this week he is not concerned about the government’s ability to assist states impacted by Hurricane Dorian which continues to lash the East Coast.

“We are using much less [for hurricane response] here than we anticipated,” Trump said. “No, we need help on the border.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) said gun control measures will also be a top priority for Democrats this fall, and he continues to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to bring to the floor House-passed legislation requiring universal background checks. Gun control is one of the hot-button issues Congress must confront after the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio in August. McConnell said in an interview this week that he would be willing to put gun legislation to a vote if it has President Trump’s support.

Schumer said Democrats will also pressure Senate Republicans to approve election security funding in advance of the 2020 elections.

“The Mueller report and our intelligence community concluded that Russia interfered in our 2016 elections and that more must be done to thwart attempts to interfere in our 2020 elections and beyond,” Schumer said. “Senate Democrats must work to increase pressure on Leader McConnell to stop burying bills he doesn’t like in his graveyard and to get the Senate working again by actually debating and voting on legislation to address our nation’s greatest challenges.”

This article was provided to OSAE by the Power of A and ASAE's Inroads.

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