The House is attempting to wrap-up this week with the Senate in session into the first week of August. Appropriation action has stalled out and that means Congress will have less than 15 days to act to prevent a government shutdown when they return after Labor Day. It is almost certain that a continuing resolution (CR) will be enacted to provide funding at the start of the new fiscal year on October 1. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) indicated that the House would do that when they return but said Congress would not decide how to proceed until September.
The transportation reauthorization is the issue that will take up the last days of the summer session. The House has adopted an $8 billion short term extension of the exhausted highway trust fund into mid-December. It is paid for by various offsets including the extension of an airport fee, and an adjustment on how taxpayers assess their estates in regard to paying taxes.
The Senate is attempting to pass a six year reauthorization with enough funding to pay for the first three years. The Senate has found another way to provide some of the money: sell 100 million barrels of the nation’s oil reserve fund and raise an estimated $9 billion. Currently the reserve, set up in the 1970’s to address energy emergencies, holds 700 million barrels. Earlier this year the House proposed to use a similar offset for a reform bill dealing with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wants a reauthorization that is long term but the money issue is one hurdle. The Senate debate may also bog down on amendments offered by some of the presidential candidates. One amendment is expected to deal with abortion, another the repeal of the ACA and possibly more amendments on immigration.