After passing literally nothing of substance into law in June, Congress will be in recess off starting on Friday, July 2nd and resuming on Monday, July 12th. Considering how little they got done over the past five weeks, there is a long list of issues they will struggle with during the break, and when they return:
Dems need one more vote to pass unemployment extension. Passing a nearly stand-alone unemployment extension (it is coupled with an extension of the homebuyer's tax credit) is the only thing that could actually happen before recess. However, it might not, since Democrats are one vote short and Byrd's replacement won't be around until after recess. Annie Lowrey has the state of play:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is telling reporters that he has the votes of two Republicans for his extension of federal unemployment insurance benefits. He also says he is one vote away from having 60 senators to vote for cloture on the bill, which would then move forward to a final vote.
Though there are currently 58 members who caucus with the Democrats, meaning the addition of two Republicans brings the number to 60, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) is not in support of Reid's bill. "If we had Senator Byrd's replacement we would have 60," Reid told The Hill. "We have to wait and see what a couple of Republicans do." The two Republicans are most likely Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, both of whom have signaled they would be willing to vote for a standalone measure.
A Senate Democratic aide says gaining the 60th vote with both Collins and Snowe likely on board is proving extremely difficult - because Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) has indicated he will not vote for the proposal.
This bill originally had nearly $200 billion in new domestic spending. It included tens of billions, each, to prevent laying off teachers, preventing reduced Medicare payments to doctors, funding Medicaid, infrastructure projects, the extension of a variety of tax breaks, AND unemployment benefits. It was, in effect, a second stimulus bill. Now, even worn down the the nub, it is still in serious danger of being defeated.
Wall Street reform definitely will not be finished this week: This evening, House passed the conference report on Wall Street reform, 237-192 (with 3 Republican votes, actually). However, we are still going into the recess on this one. Harry Reid says Wall Street reform will not be done before the July recess:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters Wednesday that Senate procedures would not allow him to bring the bill to the floor on Thursday.
Members of the Senate will be away from Washington on Friday to attend the funeral of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) in Charleston.
"I can't because I can't procedurally get to it," Reid said.
The current plan is to file cloture on July 12th, the day Congress returns. So, Wall Street gets a chance to peel off enough votes to defeat the bill.
War supplemental legislation also headed until after recess: Yesterday, House Democrats stripped $3.9 billion in aid to the Afghanistan government from the war supplemental bill, citing corruption. That change alone guaranteed that this fight would not be finished before the break, since any changes to the bill have to also be approved by the Senate (which passed war supplemental that included the $3.9 billion). Today, House Dems are proposing a further change that would provide $10 billion in aid to states:
House Democrats today proposed adding $10 billion to a pending war-funding bill to prevent layoffs of an estimated 140,000 school teachers as part of an effort to revive a stalled jobs agenda
Given the fate of the second stimulus bill in the Senate, I am not confident about this passing. However, given that it will likely further delay passage of the war supplemental, I am all for it. No domestic economic relief funding, then no war funding. Block the bill until we get relief here at home.
Kagan continues to sail through confirmation hearings. No trouble spots have appeared for Kagan yet in her confirmation hearings. Don't expect any problems to appear, either. As Chriis Hayes said:
Just occurred to me that these hearings are MUCH easier when you don't have decades of decisions you need to both recall and defend.
That's what's on tap in the Senate for the next month. And really, that is what's on tap in Congress until the elections. Once Congress adjourns in early August, they won't be back until after Labor Day. And, even when they do return, don't expect much to get done so close to the elections.
Immediately after the elections, there are two big fights:
Reforming Senate procedure:: On this subject, a new Brookings Institute paper on that subject is worth a read. It provides a good background on recent procedural fights in the Senate, and examines possibilities for reform. Of particular interest, it argues that just forcing the minority to engage in a "real filibuster" won't work.
Deficit commission report: Personally, I still think anything the deficit commission recommends (report due in Decemeber) in will be too unpopular to ever pass Congress. A coalition also seems impossible legislatively, as proposing just one tax increase, and one benefit reduction, would sink the whole enterprise. However, with even Andy Stern, one of the more progressive members of hte deficit commission, suggesting that some of the Social Seccurity trust fund should be invested in Wall Street, it seems like this is going to be a big fight we have to negage anyway.
That is what is on tap for the next six to seven months in Congress--plan accordingly.