Congress Has a Lot to Do Before Summer Break

Congress Has a Lot to Do Before Summer Break

With the tax cuts passed and the White House increasingly focused on foreign policy, Republicans in Congress have set many of their top agenda items – from Obamacare repeal to immigration reform – on a back burner. But that doesn’t mean lawmakers will be twiddling their thumbs until the midterm elections in November. In fact, the congressional schedule is looking pretty busy ahead of the summer recess. As Roll Call writes Monday, “the next few months is the remaining time period Congress realistically has to be productive before lawmakers’ focus fully shifts toward their re-election campaigns.”

Here are the some of the major items on lawmakers’ to-do list:

* The farm bill: The roughly $800 billion omnibus package, which includes everything from crop subsidies to food safety and nutrition programs, is expected to come to the House floor this week, offering Speaker Paul Ryan an opportunity to advance his long-standing goal of “welfare reform” by imposing more restrictive work requirements on food stamp recipients. Ryan faces resistance from both his left and right, with many Democrats opposing the proposed changes to the program as too harsh even as some conservatives saying they don’t go far enough. Another potential sticking point in the bill involves proposed reforms for the loan and subsidy program for the sugar industry.

* Veterans programs: A bill to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs is also expected to be on the House floor this week. The legislative package would allow more patients to see private doctors and provide $5.2 billion for the VA Choice program, which runs out of money at the end of May.

* Military spending: Next week the House will turn to the sprawling National Defense Authorization Act, which provides $716 billion for the military in fiscal year 2019.

* Rescission request: The House is expected to take up the Trump administration’s $15 billion rescission request before the end of May. Republican House leaders have expressed confidence they will pass the request, but the narrowly divided Senate looks less certain.

* Opioids epidemic: Lawmakers hope to begin debating a raft of proposals addressing the opioid epidemic in June. The House Energy and Commerce Committee Health Subcommittee is currently wading through nearly than three dozen bills that attack the problem from a variety of angles, some of which involve Medicare and Medicaid and would require substantial new funding.

* Appropriations bills: The House could start moving the first of 12 appropriations bills in June, and President Trump is pushing lawmakers to complete the funding process for the 2019 fiscal year before the August recess, saying last week that Congress should stay in session until the job is done. But Politico dismissed the idea of finishing the spending package before the end of the summer as “fantasy,” while suggesting that the president’s unwavering demand for more money for a border wall “could spark a massive battle in September, when government funding runs out.”