Lawmakers are gearing up for a final push before August recess this week, with a lengthy to-do list in anticipation of the legislative hiatus that comes just before a number of deadlines looming over Congress this fall.
Lawmakers are pushing to make progress this week on appropriations bills, the National Defense Authorization Act and more, with an eye to that end-of-September fiscal year deadline that affords little wiggle room upon Congress’ return from recess.
The House is expected to work to approve two of the 12 appropriations bills lawmakers are aiming to pass in the coming months – on agriculture and military construction – which are considered to be among the least controversial. Even so, members of the GOP’s right flank threaten to complicate the effort.
Since January, the group of conservatives has been a thorn in House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s side, withholding votes for his speakership bid until they extracted concessions, and wielding considerable power within the conference.
Not long after the debt ceiling deal had been reached, part of which included an agreement to approve the 12 appropriations bills on time, the scorned House conservatives made a push to mark up the spending bills well below the agreed-upon amounts – spelling trouble for consensus in the conference, and all-but dooming prospects in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
All the while, House Republicans are showcasing their efforts to highlight what they say is malfeasance within the Biden administration this week.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is set to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, just days after another House committee accused him of “dereliction of duty” for his handling of the southern border. Increasingly the subject of GOP ire, Wednesday’s hearing is not expected to be a friendly one for Mayorkas, as House Republicans eye steps toward impeachment.
Another House committee is also set to hear testimony on Wednesday about unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAPs, after a former intelligence official claimed that the government is withholding information about alien spacecrafts.
And running in the background of the week is the possibility of an indictment of former president Donald Trump in the criminal investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. At the same time, McCarthy has been under pressure to bring up a vote on a resolution to expunge the former president’s two impeachments: a vote could come as soon as this week.
Meanwhile, the Senate is expected to make a push this week to approve its version of the NDAA, after the House passed a version of the must-pass defense bill earlier this month that Democrats have said was “hijacked” with the GOP’s “culture wars” on issues like abortion, gender-affirming care and critical race theory.
But with the NDAA, the upper chamber is also likely gearing up for a fight over the Pentagon’s abortion policy, which Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama has mounted fierce opposition against, blocking the promotion of hundreds of military personnel in the last few months. Whether lawmakers vote on an amendment to roll back the policy, which reimburses service members for travel expenses to have an abortion, remains to be seen. And whether a vote to rollback the policy, which is expected to fail, is enough to satisfy Tuberville is another question altogether.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hasn’t ruled out keeping the upper chamber in session into the scheduled August recess over the abortion policy dispute, especially as the post-recess to-do list already looms large. But lawmakers appear hopeful they can resolve the issue in the days ahead.
“Nobody thinks this kind of bipartisanship is easy, and both sides have honest disagreements as we do on so many issues, but that should not prevent us from fulfilling our obligation to take care of our service members,” Schumer said on Thursday. “There’s every reason in the world to get this bill done as soon as we can.”