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What Congress has planned after Memorial Day

Congress will be racing to complete a number of priorities between Memorial Day and the August recess, all under the shadow of massive fiscal issues looming at year's end.


House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia speaking to reporters on the Senate's failure to produce a budget on May 8. Mr. Cantor today released the House GOP agenda for post-Memorial Day.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File

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When Congress returns from the Memorial Day holiday the House and Senate will have about two months before their annual August recess, a moment widely seen as a legislative point of no return given the pressures of presidential politics this election year and the gridlocked situation on Capitol Hill.

Between Memorial Day and the dog days of the summer, however, the two chambers will move on several important but manageable priorities, while the massive issues of year-end tax increases, mandated spending cuts, and the legality of President Obama's signature health-care reform loom above all. 

According to a memo sent to House legislators by majority leader Eric Cantor (R) and floor remarks from Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D), the two chambers will not be legislating in step over the next several weeks.  

Mr. Reid said the Senate will take up issues including a farm bill, small business tax relief, cybersecurity, and pay fairness for women. By July 1, the Senate also has to figure out how to pass legislation that would keep federally subsidized student loan interest rates from doubling to 6.8 percent. The House passed a bill eliminating a preventive health-care fund to pay for the student loan rate extension's $6 billion tab, but Senate Democrats have balked at a similar proposal in their chamber.

What is not on the Senate agenda for the summer is passing a budget for the new fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1. While Congress is mandated by law to produce a budget resolution every year, the Senate has failed to failed to pass a budget for the last three years. Senator Reid and other Senate Democrats have argued that they don't need to, because the Budget Control Act, passed as part of debt-ceiling negotiations last summer, sets spending levels for the coming fiscal year.


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