Congress returns for the last month of the fiscal year with some key challenges before them and only a handful of days to act. In addition to immediate September needs, Congress will also have to deal with some additional must-pass legislation before the end of 2015. In this category, Congress must grapple with an expiring transportation fund (now on a three-month extension), a debt ceiling increase, some expiring tax breaks, and some expiring reauthorizations.
For September, first off are appropriations for FY 2016. None of the twelve bills have been sent to the President so a continuing resolution (CR) to provide funding on October 1 will be required. Senate Democrats have blocked action on the appropriations measures in that body waiting for a more realistic set of budget caps but a bipartisan renegotiation of the caps has not happened and the Republican leadership has not made a move to open such talks. On the House side Republican leadership blocked further debate when the Interior Department bill got bogged down in a debate over the confederate flag. Neither house has debated a Labor-HHS-Education appropriations beyond the committee level.
The biggest challenge that will become clearer this week is the growing desire of some conservative members of Congress to push a defunding of Planned Parenthood as part of any temporary or long term funding extension. If that happens Congressional Democrats and the President would oppose any funding measure which could result in an October 1 shutdown.
The Congress has only 12 business days scheduled in this month. Before the end of the fiscal year both houses will debate the Iran agreement that the Administration has negotiated by September 17, Congress will break for the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and on September 24, Pope Francis will address the Congress. In addition to appropriations there are a number of expiring programs that must be addressed including TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) cash assistance block grant. The hoped for reauthorization of that law may be fading.
There are also a host of programs that require a reauthorization but these programs will continue to get funded without one. These include the ESEA education law (see below), child nutrition, CAPTA and all the programs that are a part of the CAPTA five year reauthorization including the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CB-CAP), Family Violence Prevention Act, Adoption Opportunities Act and Abandoned Infants programs—although the last one is likely to be unfunded.