Congress has shown an uptick in productivity as compared to its immediate predecessors. According to the Pew Research Center, the House and Senate have approved slightly
more pieces of substantive legislation than in the 112
Congresses, and they have also considered more amendments, met for more working days, and displayed
other indicators of procedural improvement. However, the collapse of several "must pass" bills before Congress adjourned for August recess makes for an uncertain and likely contentious fall legislative session.
Lawmakers will return after Labor Day with just a few working days to approve a budget before September 30, the end of the federal government's fiscal year. If Congress is unable to reach a compromise on a 2016 budget, it may pass a short-term extension, which is known on Capitol Hill as a continuing resolution.
Another top item on Congress's fall to-do list is addressing the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund which is expected to run out of money in late October. Although both chambers have passed bills to replenish the fund, the two plans differ in length of extension, funding mechanisms, and other key features, making any conferencing process lengthy, if not impossible.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) currently estimates that without an increase in the debt limit, the United States Treasury would "most likely be able to continue borrowing and have sufficient cash to make its usual payments" through mid-November or early December. So, lawmakers will attempt to reach a compromise to raise the debt ceiling, a once-standard procedural move that has become the subject of
Other items likely to be considered this fall include the Iran deal, reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank and the
Federal Aviation Administration, cybersecurity information sharing legislation, and the myriad of tax extenders that would be applied retroactively for 2015.
As several key deadlines
loom in the distance, there is a greater chance that these controversial items could be tied to the "must-pass" critical spending and debt ceiling bills. Although this might raise the odds of these measures moving forward, it also increases the risk of intense opposition to bills that would keep the government open.
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