What Congress Needs to Do in the Next Two Weeks

Congress has a long checklist of things it has to do by the end of September. On Tuesday, it informally crossed one thing off when the House passed a "clean" extension of transportation programs through at least the end of the year. The Senate should pass it soon as well.

Also, Congress had the opportunity to pass a disapproval of the second tranche of the debt ceiling. The measure failed in the Senate, so it will not be sent to President Obama.

But there is much more for Congress to get done in the new few weeks.

  • Disaster relief: The Senate was able to pass a $7 billion disaster relief package on Tuesday by a 61-38 vote, after it was rejected 53-33 earlier. The House has yet to pass a bill, but supposedly, they are looking to offset the cost of disaster relief.
  • Appropriations bills: The government must be funded at the start of FY 2012 in two weeks. But there is a tougher item on the agenda that must be done by October 1: enacting all 12 appropriations bills or a CR for FY 2012. Under the Budget Control Act, the total cap for discretionary spending is $1.043 trillion for FY 2012, and the indication is that Congress will stick to the cap, despite some rumbling in the House about lower spending levels. The House has been working since it passed the House budget resolution (the "House Republican budget") in April to pass appropriations bills. So far, the full House has passed six appropriations, while the Senate has only passed one (Military Construction-VA). Other bills that have action in both chambers have significant funding differences, although this is partially because the House was operating under a lower cap ($1.019 trillion) when they passed their bills. If they are unable to get any of the bills finished in time, they will have to turn to a...
  • Continuing resolution: House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) released yesterday a $1.043 trillion CR that would fund the government through November 18. The measure would represent a 1.4 percent cut from FY 2011, which would be applied essentially across-the-board. It would also provide $3.65 billion in disaster relief. The fact that Rogers is using the BCA cap is a sign that reconciling House and Senate wishes may not be that difficult.  

Since there are a lot of moving parts, we have put all of the appropriations bills into the table below, showing its status in the House and Senate and the funding difference between the two bills, if applicable.

Appropriations Process Update
Bill House Status Senate Status Funding Difference
Military Construction-VA Passed House Passed Senate Minor Differences
Agriculture Passed House Passed Appropriations Senate $2.6 Billion Higher
Energy-Water Passed House Passed Appropriations Senate $1 Billion Higher
Homeland Security Passed House Passed Appropriations Senate $400 Million Higher
Defense Passed House Passed Subcommittee House $18.2 Billion Higher
Legislative Branch Passed House N/A N/A
Commerce-Justice-Science Passed Appropriations Passed Subcommittee Senate $2.5 Billion Higher
Financial Services Passed Appropriations Passed Subcommittee Senate $1.8 Billion Higher
Interior-Environment Passed Appropriations N/A N/A
State-Foreign Operations Passed Subcommittee N/A N/A
Transportation Passed Subcommittee N/A N/A
Labor-HHS-Education N/A N/A N/A

You can see the status of all of the appropriations bills at CQ's Budget Tracker (subscription required).