Gay marriage, gov’t funding in spotlight as US Congress returns from break
The U.S. Congress needs to pass a stop-gap bill to keep the federal government funded and could also vote on protecting gay marriage rights during a brief Washington work period starting on Tuesday before Democrats and Republicans return to the campaign trail.
With President Joe Biden’s Democrats expected to lose their thin majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in the Nov. 8 midterms, and with Senate control also at stake, Democrats aim to engineer smooth passage of a temporary government funding bill by Sept. 30 to avoid partial federal agency shutdowns when the money runs out at the end of this month.
Congress will have to work fast. The Senate reopens on Tuesday evening and the House on Sept. 13. But the House is scheduled to be in session for only 11 days this month and will then be gone until Nov. 14, unless plans change.
Republican cooperation will be necessary for the Senate for the temporary funding bill that may last until December, and which is needed because the two parties have yet to agree on a dozen regular funding bills.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, has also vowed to hold a vote on a House-passed bill codifying the right to same-sex marriage.
It is not clear that the bill will have the 10 Republican votes needed to pass. During the August recess, both parties worked on revisions to the measure, which could help its prospects, according to a source familiar with the discussions.
UKRAINE AID, DISASTER FUNDING ON THE TABLE
Plenty of controversial issues could roil Congress as it grapples with a massive spending bill.
On Friday, Biden requested $47.1 billion in new spending, including $11.7 billion in emergency funds to help Ukraine in its fight against Russian forces and $22.4 billion in COVID-19 aid.
With many areas of the United States suffering from climate change-related flooding, western wildfires, and other natural disasters, Biden has requested $6.5 billion in aid, along with $4.5 billion to help deal with an outbreak of monkeypox.
A special House committee might hold at least one more hearing as part of its investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by President Donald Trump supporters. A separate probe into Trump’s handling of classified documents has dominated headlines for months, worrying some Republican candidates about election fallout.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin may ramp up his push for a bill reforming the way permits are approved for energy infrastructure projects ranging from pipelines to export facilities. It is a measure that some Democrats could have concerns with because of climate change worries.
DEMOCRATS SOMEWHAT OPTIMISTIC
Heading into the final two months of the campaign season, Democrats in Congress were feeling somewhat more optimistic about avoiding massive losses to Republican challengers on Nov. 8.
Gasoline prices have fallen off of highs earlier this year and there are signs of a public backlash against the conservative-majority Supreme Court’s overturning abortion rights, which was a Republican Party goal for decades.
Democrats have scored victories this year on popular initiatives, such as gun control, placing a cap on some prescription drug prices, and moving toward carbon emissions reductions blamed for dangerous climate change.
Nevertheless, Biden’s popularity has suffered because of Americans’ economic worries and COVID-19 pandemic fatigue.
Republican lawmakers undoubtedly will spend this upcoming work session hammering away on such issues.
“These are challenging times for a lot of folks,” Republican Senator Mitt Romney said in a statement last week. “With record inflation, we’re seeing higher prices for food, electricity, gasoline, and more.”