Congress returns this week, but the longest work periods are over for the 115th Congress, making it less likely anything of significance will pass between now and the election. Both houses will take a week off at the start of May, with the Memorial Day and July 4th breaks cutting into the rest of summer before Congress takes their Labor Day break at the start of August.
In these next weeks it is unclear whether there will be anything of significance in legislation beyond political messaging before the November election. The House is expected to vote on a balanced budget amendment to the constitution but they may also consider another tax cut package. A duel action that holds at least a little irony for some true deficit hawks. Both houses will likely move on at least some of the FY 2019 appropriations bills due by October 1.
In the Senate, the path forward may be more complicated. There are a growing number of new presidential cabinet appointments to confirm. When the Senate returns they will have to consider (both in committee and with Senate floor votes) replacements for Secretary of State, CIA Director, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Based on rumors there could be more vacancies in the next few weeks. When the Senate returns they will have another new member, this time from the State of Mississippi. That state’s agriculture commissioner, Cindy Hyde-Smith will become the new Republican Senator from Mississippi appointed by the Governor to replace the retiring Senator Thad Cochrane (R-MS). That now makes the state of Vermont as the only state in the union to have never sent a woman to Congress.
Senate action by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will become more challenging in this next stretch. Hyde-Smith’s appointment replaces Senator Cochran who had missed a great deal of time due to illness. Senate Republicans lost the Alabama seat reducing their numbers to 51 and it is uncertain how much time Senator John McCain (R-AZ) will be able to spend in Washington as he continues his treatment for cancer. When he is not present McConnell will have only 50 Republican to 49 votes.
Both houses are likely to take up, and may even pass, additional opioids legislation (see below) and there may be some attempts to craft an infrastructure bill the President has pushed for but without any new funding that seems far off. There will be a continued debate on immigration issues in one form or another especially if there is more court action.