What’s On Congress’s Agenda in September?
Do you support efforts to enact bipartisan spending bills & trade deals?
by Countable | 9.5.19
Congress returns from its summer recess next week facing a September 30th deadline to enact nearly $1.4 trillion in spending for the upcoming fiscal year or risk another partial government shutdown, but that’s not all that will be on the congressional docket for the month ahead. Here’s a preview of the major items on this month’s agenda:
Before members of Congress left town for their summer breaks they approved the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019, which outlined a $1.371 trillion discretionary spending plan for fiscal year 2020. However, the bill only outlined the top-line budget levels which means that Congress will need to approve the spending itself by passing appropriations bills.
In the past, Congress would likely bundle all of the 12 individual appropriations bills for FY2020 into a single “omnibus” package, but President Donald Trump has said he’d veto any omnibus bill that reaches his desk. As a result, Congress is likely to use the “minibus” approach they used in FY2019 to pass appropriations in several smaller packages which each combine a few of the individual appropriations bills.
Congressional leaders and the White House agreed to take a bipartisan approach to the process to avoid “poison pill” riders for each side that could derail the process. And while the budget levels previously agreed to included boosts of $30.9 billion for defense and $24.5 billion for non-defense spending from the prior year to appease both sides, it remains to be seen whether lawmakers stick to the “no-poison pill” pledge.
Another issue is that Congress only has four weeks in which to approve these spending bills before the new fiscal year begins. Lawmakers may look to enact a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government funded at current levels and avoid a partial government shutdown on October 1st if it begins to look doubtful that they’ll have all $1.371 trillion appropriated by the deadline.
The White House is expected to formally send the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to Congress for approval early this month. That will trigger the beginning of the so-called “fast-track” process, which allows a trade agreement to receive expedited consideration without amendment in both chambers within 90 days.
Once the USMCA is received by the House, relevant committees will have 45 days to consider the bill, and once that elapses it would be discharged to receive a floor vote within another 15 days. After the House completes its work on the bill, Senate committees would have 15 days to consider the trade deal, after which it’d be discharged for a floor vote within the following 15 days.
If the USMCA is formally submitted by the White House next week and lawmakers use the full 90 days to consider the trade deal, it could be approved in mid-December before Congress takes its year-end holiday recess. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s CEO has suggested that Congress already has the votes to approve the USMCA, although some Democrats have expressed concern about its enforcement mechanism which could cause it to be delayed.
The USMCA may not be the only trade deal on Congress’s radar in the near future, as lawmakers may choose to weigh in on the U.S.-Japan trade deal that was recently announced and will be formalized this month. However, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said he thinks it will be allowed to take effect without congressional action but that it will receive broad bipartisan support if it’s brought up for a vote.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / AlbertPego)
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