Congressional outlook after the August recess
The annual August recess—when both the House of Representatives and the Senate leave Washington to return to their home districts for a month—ends after Labor Day. While the success of any efforts to make changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are uncertain, there are several “must-pass” bills that Congress must address when they return in September, including:
- Funding the government: To keep the government open and avoid a shutdown, Congress needs to at least come up with a stopgap spending measure by Sept. 30. But there could be political roadblocks to quick passage if Republicans and Democrats get mired in disputes over controversial items such as the President’s proposed border wall with Mexico.
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): Current funding for the program that covers 5.7 million children will end Sept. 30. In previous Congresses, CHIP reauthorization has garnered broad bipartisan support, and states relying on the funding are hoping for a quick reauthorization. But given the failure of the Senate GOP to pass an ACA repeal and replace measure, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle may try to attach riders to a CHIP reauthorization bill to either attack the ACA or stabilize the law.
- Debt ceiling: Sept. 29 is the deadline for Congress to approve raising the debt ceiling (the maximum amount of money the government can borrow to pay for spending that is already authorized). This is needed to avert a default on the nation’s debt and the economic chaos it would create. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is urging Congress to pass a “clean” debt ceiling increase, but a recent meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) ended with no assurances that will happen or any progress on an agreement. Many Republicans have indicated that any debt ceiling increase should include spending cuts, while many Democrats oppose such a requirement. Some Democrats have indicated they cannot agree to a debt ceiling increase if Republicans intend to pass tax cuts that would add trillions of dollars to the national debt.