How Congress plans to spend its summer
Congress left town Thursday for a weeklong Memorial Day recess, but when lawmakers return the first week of June they face a number of tasks this summer ahead of the monthlong August break.
Most immediately pressing is an immigration deal in the House. Republican leaders are working to stave off a procedural maneuver by a group of moderates that would trigger votes on four competing immigration bills. If 218 members of the House sign a petition on the measures, it will trigger a series of votes in June. When lawmakers left, the petition had 213 signatures.
Instead, GOP leaders are working with them, as well as members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, on a compromise that would still allow votes on immigration but under conditions leadership prefers. Those negotiators aim to hold the votes by the third week of June, and all eyes will be on the negotiations in the meantime.
That timeline also affects the farm bill, monumental legislation that sets the eating and farming policy in the United States — including what we grow, what you know about your dinner and how much the government spends in the process — for about five years. The last farm bill was signed by then-President Barack Obama in 2014. The House failed to pass its version of the bill last week when it got tangled up in the immigration issue. A group of conservatives voted against the bill, saying they wouldn’t support it until their demands were met on immigration. So Republican leaders are eager to resolve the immigration fight and swiftly hold another vote on the farm bill. The House will then need to hash out any differences with whatever version the Senate passes and come up with a final farm bill by the September 30 deadline.
Both chambers will also be working this summer to finalize a sexual harassment bill. The House passed its version in February, but the Senate made some changes and passed a different version on Thursday. The bill now heads back to the House, and the two chambers are expected to work on the differences in a conference committee.
Also on the docket this summer — in both chambers — are large opioids packages, water infrastructure legislation and a package of spending bills, the latter of which faces a September 30 deadline to avoid a government shutdown.
The Senate has a number of nominations it needs to finish, as well as approval of the National Defense Authorization Act, which the House passed earlier this week. The Senate also needs to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.
Pressure is growing on lawmakers, especially in the Senate, to skip the August recess and finish more business. While it’s possible the Senate could stay, it’s also possible Senate leaders could strike a deal to advance a number of spending bills and nominations so they can leave town on time. Of course, a lot of that work will have to take place during the June work period for that to be successful.
The House Intelligence Committee Republicans wrapped up their Russia investigation in the spring, but the Senate Intelligence panel is still probing whether there was collusion between Trump’s team and Russia in the 2016 election. Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr has said he hopes to wrap up his committee’s investigation by September.