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Congress Is Back. Is Another Government Shutdown Coming?

Getty Images/Justin Sullivan

With just 58 days remaining until the midterm elections, the political world is quickly turning its attention to Senate races in Arkansas, Alaska, North Carolina and a host of other states. But before that happens, Congress has a few things to take care of in Washington.  And that means the August recess is over.

The House and Senate both return today, although neither has much on its schedule. In fact, policymakers have very little left to do until after the elections. The most important item on the agenda is passing a continuing resolution to avoid another government shutdown. The 2015 fiscal year begins on October 1 and, as expected, appropriators have not tuned the topline figures in the Murray-Ryan budget into specific funding levels for all parts of the federal government. That’s actually pretty common. (For an update on where each appropriation bill stands, check the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.)

In the meantime, a continuing resolution (CR) would fund the government at its current level until after the midterms, when Congress will have more time (and less political pressure) to pass the appropriation bills. The conventional wisdom is that Ted Cruz and his Republican colleagues won’t try to use the CR as leverage to extract policy concessions out of the president. Cruz and co. tried that last year and it was a political disaster. Doing it again could cost them control of the Senate—and the Republican establishment is determined to avoid that fate. BuzzFeed’s John Stanton reports that House GOP leaders intend to vote on the CR quickly, leaving Cruz little time to create an alternative strategy.

Republicans are also looking to avoid a drawn out battle over the Export-Import bank. The charter for the bank also expires at the end of September and many moderate Republicans, along with most Democrats, want to extend it. But conservatives believe the Ex-Im bank is a classic example of “crony capitalism” and are determined to let it expire. Even House GOP leaders are split over the issue. House Speaker John Boehner and Jeb Hensarling are close to an agreement on a short-term extension of the bank until early next year. Others, like new House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan oppose its reauthorization, although they may accept a short-term deal that moves this fight beyond the midterms.

Besides those two issues, Congress has little else to do. That’s not a bad thing. Given the self-inflicted crises of last fall, it’s a welcome change.

Danny Vinik

In the news:

IMMIGRATION: President Obama made it official this weekend: He’s delaying his executive action on immigration until after the midterms. Jonathan Cohn explains what that means. (QED)

CLIMATE: The Obama Administration took the first step in what could be the country's first-ever regulations on airplane emissions, a source of 2 percent of U.S. carbon pollution. (Timothy CamaThe Hill)

ECONOMY: The August jobs report came in well-below expectations, a sobering reminder that the economy hasn’t kicked into second gear. If you want a positive view of Friday’s report, QED has you covered.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: TMZ has new video this morning of Ray Rice knocking out his then-girlfriend/now-wife in an elevator in February. The NFL supposedly saw this video before deciding on the two-game suspension for Rice, which Commissioner Roger Goodell has already apologized for as being too weak. Even so, it's hard to understand how the league could believe that punishment was enough if they actually did see this video.

Things worth reading:

Criminalizing miscarriage: Amanda Marcotte argues that the movement against abortions affects all women, even the ones who did not intend to end their pregnancy. Women who miscarry are being treated like they did something criminal. (RH Reality Check)

Toxic water: Toledo, Ohio's water ban a month ago was a wakeup call to how little regulation exists for toxic algae in people's drinking water. There is no federal standard, and now state regulators are begging for one. (John Seewer, Associated Press)

“Yikes” A New York Times investigation finds foreign countries using research grants to buy influence at think tanks in the U.S. (Eric Lipton, Brooke Williams and Nicholas Confessore)

Department of the unexpected: Playboy, of all magazines, has published two pieces recently that have garnered significant praise from the feminist blogosphere. (Annie-Rose Strasser, ThinkProgress)

Stories we’re watching:

Continued fallout from Obama’s announcement that he’ll delay his executive action on immigration until after the midterms.


While Obama waits to take executive action on immigration, thousands of people will be deported. Naomi Shavin has the numbers. Also, Rebecca Leber has some advice for Rand Paul: check with the Pentagon before you slam Hillary Clinton.  And here’s the most depressing chart from the Fed’s new income and wealth data.