Congress Returns From Summer Break; Fiscal Matters Expected to Dominate September Legislative Agenda; FASEB Issues E-Action Alert
Congress returned to Capitol Hill after the Labor Day holiday for what is expected to be a brief session. With less than a month until the start of fiscal year (FY) 2017, legislators will need to move quickly to pass a “continuing resolution” (CR) to keep federal agencies operating beyond September 30.
Fiscal conservatives in the House are demanding a six-month CR to fund the government through March 2017. However, the congressional leadership and Senate Democrats prefer a much shorter CR that will force Congress to come back after Election Day to pass an omnibus appropriations bill finalizing the 2017 agency budgets.
Speaking to reporters this past week, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said, “We are not going to agree to a long-term CR. We are not doing anything into next year.” Multiple press reports indicate that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) supports a three-month CR, and on September 7, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated that the Senate could vote as early as the week of September 13 on a CR through December 9.
The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) supports a three-month CR because it will give Congress time later this fall to vote on proposed funding increases for the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Agriculture research programs. FASEB issued an e-action alert asking individuals to email their members of Congress to urge them to support a three-month CR that will keep government agencies funded through the November elections. In addition, FASEB joined more than 200 organizations in signing a letter organized by the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research describing the ill effects a long-term CR would have on the research community. The letter was addressed to House and Senate leadership and the chairs of the appropriations committees.
Passage of the CR is likely to dominate the fall legislative agenda, especially since Congress is planning to break again in early October so lawmakers can return to the campaign trail. Requests for funding for Zika, appeals from the Louisiana congressional delegation for money to address the recent floods in Baton Rouge, and conservative’s demands to postpone final budget decisions until next year are all factors that could complicate the process of approving the CR. Despite these challenges, a government shutdown is extremely unlikely given the upcoming elections.