As we begin the last full week in July the House of Representatives will be wrapping up this week and won’t return until after Labor Day. The Senate faces continued action at least for the next two weeks until they take some time off in August. It is unclear how much of August the Senate will use but they are expected to take up a combined Defense Department Appropriations with the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations the last partial week of July, starting on July 30.
The House of Representatives still has approximately half of the dozen appropriations bills to finish and one of the initial conferences between the House and the Senate has been delayed by weeks. In addition, the House version of the Labor-HHS-Education bill with its many controversial provisions (including the Alderholt amendment) are likely to slow the bill down.
In this last week before the summer break, the House could attempt some votes on their welfare reform agenda which has focused on increased work requirements in SNAP and agriculture programs, they have been delayed on housing work requirements, but they could attempt a vote on a possible TANF reauthorization this week. With slowing progress on appropriations there could be a packed agenda for September in the House. At the very least work on a continuing resolution to fund the government for the October 1 start of the 2019 fiscal year.
The Congress has also lost some momentum on an opioid package which at one time the House hoped to act on in May. In regard to the agriculture bill there is a division between the two houses with the House version focusing on work restrictions while the Senate is more concerned about extending farm programs now seen as more important with the current tariff and trade wars hurting some farm industries.
The Senate is waiting on the House on that opioid legislation, so they are likely to attempt more appropriations votes while voting on judicial nominations before the big lead up to the Supreme Court hearings and debate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has now threaten the minority Democrats that if they don’t relent on insisting on obtaining all the writings of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh he will hold the vote close to the election which would cause the Senate to be around in October.
One final fiscal note for Congress last week was that the Administration issued its annual midyear review that projects a $1.085 trillion deficit in next year’s budget. In a television interview, Ways and Means Committee Chair, Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) said it wasn’t because of the tax package but in fact, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the tax cut causes a $230 billion increase in the deficit for 2019 due to lost revenue combined with $190 billion more in spending through the 2018 omnibus budget deal which included increases in defense and non-defense spending. That number will surely resurface as an issue in the next Congress as some Members of Congress find a new faith in the need to reduce deficits.