Congress could have gotten one huge agenda merchandise accomplished earlier than leaving for August recess, however a prolonged to-do listing awaits lawmakers as they return this week (within the Senate) and subsequent (within the Home). On the high of it: a vote on laws to guard same-sex marriage that may pressure some Republicans to cease dithering and take a place on a difficulty that some nonetheless view as politically fraught.
Though a Senate vote on the invoice bought delayed this summer season, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the Democrat main the push for the laws, is working to make sure a vote can happen in September, in line with a spokesperson.
There’s much more on Congress’s docket as properly, and a really quick time to do it: Each chambers are scheduled to take off a big chunk of October because the midterm elections method on November 8.
Between every now and then, there’s a serious deadline on passing appropriations to maintain the federal government open, extra judicial vacancies that Democrats wish to fill, and a backlog of different payments lawmakers are eying. All of these things tackle new urgency given the excessive chance Republicans will take management of the Home in January, permitting them to dam just about something Democrats wish to get accomplished.
Right here’s a have a look at what Congress must do, what Democrats actually wish to do, and one huge precedence that would crop up later within the 12 months.
1) Passing laws to guard same-sex marriage
In July, the Home handed the Respect for Marriage Act, laws that will codify protections for same-sex marriage into federal legislation. Since then, there’s been an ongoing query of if the invoice can cross the Senate, given the 60 votes it will want to beat the filibuster.
The invoice handed with a stunning variety of Home Republican votes (although many of the caucus opposed it), seemingly catching Democratic leaders within the Senate off guard. Democrats within the higher chamber now have an opportunity to shepherd it into legislation earlier than the top of this time period.
Schumer stated proper earlier than recess that he needed to deliver the invoice to the ground and that Democrats had been working to get the Republican assist it wanted to cross. A number of Republicans together with Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz have already stated they oppose the invoice and don’t see a necessity for it since they don’t imagine these rights might be threatened. Democrats, in the meantime, have pointed to an opinion written by Supreme Courtroom Justice Clarence Thomas that referenced Obergefell as a choice he could be interested by revisiting.
Up to now, 4 Republicans have publicly backed the invoice together with Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Rob Portman (OH), and Thom Tillis (NC). Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has signaled that he received’t oppose the invoice however has not dedicated to supporting it, both. Baldwin and Collins, who can also be a invoice co-sponsor, try to handle some excellent Republican issues by including an modification that will make clear the influence the invoice would have on non secular liberty, Axios reviews.
As of final week, Baldwin nonetheless appears bullish that the laws will finally garner enough Republican backing. “Senator Baldwin feels assured there may be the Republican assist wanted to cross the bipartisan laws,” her spokesperson stated.
2) Protecting the federal government open
It’s that point of 12 months, once more. Appropriations — often known as spending payments that fund authorities companies — expire on the finish of September. At that time, Congress has to cross a complete new set of 12 appropriations payments to maintain the federal government funded and open.
Usually, Congress has been unable to finish its work on all 12 appropriations payments by this deadline, leading to lawmakers passing what’s often known as a unbroken decision (CR), or short-term funding invoice, which retains funding ranges for all federal companies on the similar stage because the earlier 12 months. That route is probably not preferrred, particularly for packages which will want new funding, however doing so means the federal government received’t shut down as a result of it nonetheless has cash to function.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chair of the Appropriations Committee, plans to introduce a CR within the coming weeks, in line with a spokesperson for the panel.
The push to cross the CR might grow to be extra difficult if lawmakers attempt to connect different provisions to the laws. Already, a gaggle of Home lawmakers is opposing the addition of measures that will bolster fossil gasoline manufacturing, which had been provided to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) as a part of a deal to assist the Inflation Discount Act. Given Democratic management of each chambers, it’s unlikely the federal government will shut down, although slim margins within the Senate give Republicans extra leeway to place forth their priorities and gradual the method.
3) Judges, judges, judges
One main activity the Senate has along with passing payments is confirming judicial and govt department nominees. Within the final two years, particularly, it’s grow to be a excessive precedence for a lot of Democrats who wish to even the scales after the Trump administration aggressively stuffed vacancies. Up to now, Biden has already seen extra judges confirmed than latest administrations on the similar time.
If Democrats lose the Senate this fall, nevertheless, they might additionally lose the flexibility to push by way of judges with out Republicans voting for them, which means it will be onerous to approve any judges. That chance has fueled activist requires Democrats to approve extra judges whereas they nonetheless can. In a latest Slate op-ed, Chris Kang, Demand Justice’s chief counsel, famous that Democrats might nonetheless depart over 60 vacancies open on the finish of the 12 months.
Kang is urging the White Home to expedite the nominations of further judges and the Senate Judiciary Committee to carry extra affirmation hearings, and think about extra nominees in these hearings. Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) is dedicated to retaining judges a “high precedence” for the higher chamber, in line with a committee spokesperson.
4) Electoral Rely Act reform
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is making an attempt to stop one other effort to overturn an election just like the one which got here to a head on January 6. They wish to try this by making modifications to the Electoral Rely Act, laying out how Congress counts every state’s electoral voters and would make it tougher for lawmakers to problem the outcomes in numerous states.
A brand new invoice that has the backing of 9 Republican senators would make clear the vice chairman’s function within the vote certification course of and require extra lawmakers to signal on in each the Home and the Senate with a view to register a contest to a state’s election outcomes.
Lawmakers have burdened the significance of passing this invoice shortly, as some Republicans proceed to query the outcomes of the 2020 election and point out a willingness to do the identical if their most well-liked candidate doesn’t win in 2024.
5) One they won’t get to: Elevating the debt ceiling
A rise to the debt ceiling is much less of a right away precedence and extra of a difficulty that would come up throughout the lame-duck Congress session later this 12 months.
Nonetheless, Democrats could wish to increase the debt ceiling throughout the lame-duck portion of the congressional session after the midterms if Republicans win again the Home, as they’re anticipated to. If management of Congress is cut up subsequent 12 months, it’s seemingly that routine votes just like the debt ceiling and appropriations will grow to be far more contentious.
In the previous couple of many years, it’s grow to be extra widespread for lawmakers to make use of must-pass votes just like the debt ceiling to make a political assertion. One of many riskiest standoffs passed off in 2011, when Home Republicans refused to droop the debt restrict till President Barack Obama agreed to spending cuts. That 12 months, the nation almost defaulted and noticed its credit standing downgraded due to how shut Congress lower to the deadline.
Democrats might increase the debt ceiling and keep away from a repeat after they nonetheless have full congressional management, by the top of the 12 months.
With out the urgency of a pending deadline, nevertheless, Shai Akabas, the financial coverage director of the Bipartisan Coverage Heart, thinks lawmakers in all probability received’t transfer shortly. “Given how a lot else they’ve on the desk and that this received’t be an imminent drawback at the moment, my guess is that it’s much less seemingly” to occur throughout lame duck, he informed Vox.