WHEN Congress returns Sept. 8, it faces a host of pressing issues.
For the first time since 2009, all 12 appropriations bills were marked up in their respective committees in both the House and Senate. Under normal order, the next step would be floor consideration by the full House and Senate, then conferencing the bills to work out differences and passing final bills by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
Instead, Congress will likely pass a short-term continuing resolution (CR) by Sept. 30 to keep the government open but extending current year funding levels. The short-term CR is likely to last about three months, signaling that any final action on new spending bills will not occur until December.
Hope for a "grand bargain" between Democrats and Republicans on final spending levels and raising the debt ceiling. The likely omnibus spending bill could also be a vehicle for other "must-pass" legislation as well as policy riders to offer Congress' intent on different issues.
The House and Senate still need to resolve how to fund the Highway Trust Fund. Congress has until Oct. 29 to pass a long-term highway bill or approve yet another short-term fix.
Agricultural groups still wonder whether the chambers will take action on such hot topics as labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), country-of-origin labeling and expired tax benefits like the Section 179 allowance and biofuel credits.
Earlier this summer, the House passed a bill to create a voluntary national GMO labeling system. There is some new buzz about the GMO labeling bill, which could maybe find its way into must-pass legislation yet this fall.
There's also hope that the Senate will take up a bill to halt the Environmental Protection Agency from moving forward with its waters of the U.S. rule. The House passed its version this summer.
The House Agriculture Committee advanced three major reauthorization bills needed by the end of September: mandatory livestock reporting, the Grain Standards Act and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The Senate passed its Grain Standards Act bill out of committee but has not taken up the other two reauthorization bills.
Congress revisits the child nutrition program legislation roughly every five years in a single omnibus, which is set to expire on Sept. 30. The Senate Agriculture Committee has a markup date set for Sept. 17, but no word yet from the House Education & Workforce Committee on its markup date. Expect a short-term extension there as well.