WASHINGTON (AP) — Members of Congress return from July Fourth fireworks and parades Tuesday facing a daunting summer workload and an impending deadline to fund the government or risk a shutdown in the fall.
The funding fight is shaping up as a major partisan brawl against the backdrop of an intensifying campaign season, with Republicans eager to avoid another Capitol Hill mess as they struggle to hang onto control of Congress and take back the White House next year. Already they are deep into the blame game with Democrats over who would be responsible if a shutdown does happen, with House Speaker John Boehner denouncing Democrats’ “dangerously misguided strategy” and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi accusing Boehner and his Republicans of pursuing “manufactured crises.”
The funding deadline does not even arrive until Sept. 30, but lawmakers face more immediate tests, too. Near the top of the list is renewing highway funding before the government loses authority July 31 to send much-needed transportation money to the states right in the middle of summer driving season.
Legislative maneuvering over the highway bill may also create an opening to renew the disputed federal Export-Import Bank, which makes and underwrites loans to help foreign companies buy U.S. products. The bank’s charter expired June 30 due to congressional inaction, a defeat for business and a victory for conservative activists who turned killing the obscure agency into an anti-government cause celebre.
Depending on the progress of the Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations with Iran, lawmakers could face debate on that issue, too. Leading Republicans have made clear that they are prepared to reject any deal the administration comes up with.
Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday, “Well, we have gone from dismantling their program to managing proliferation. That’s the biggest concern. That’s already done.”
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