This Week on the Hill: Lawmakers Return for Busy September Session

Congress is set to return to action today as lawmakers gear up for a high-profile legislative blitz to close out 2019. Government funding will be a top priority for legislators when both chambers gavel in as lawmakers have 13 just legislative days to avert another government funding lapse. While the Senate Appropriations Committee plans to begin marking up measures on Thursday — tackling bills for Defense, Labor-HHS-Education, Energy-Water, and State-Operations — it's likely that both chambers will need to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to extend funding beyond Sept. 30, allowing negotiators to hammer out broader agreement for fiscal year (FY) 2020. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) stated late last week that the House will vote on a stopgap funding bill during the week of Sept. 16.

Looking ahead to the broader agenda for this month, Congress will look to shepherd a host of must-pass priorities — including funding extensions for certain federally funded health programs and reauthorizations for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the Export-Import Bank, and National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — through both chambers prior to the end of this month. In the House, Democrats have indicated they will look to prioritize other hot-button issues on the floor this month such as gun control, lowering drug and health costs, reforming forced arbitration, and blocking offshore drilling. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are expected to continue pushing for a vote on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in hopes of clinching a legislative win for President Donald Trump ahead of the 2020 election. While the upper chamber could play ball on a bipartisan health care costs package, it’s expected that the Senate’s work will primarily focus on government funding and presidential nominations.

For today, the House has queued up four suspension bills out of the Energy and Commerce Committee. This includes a measure that would provide federal financial assistance to states for state energy security planning and emergency preparedness, as well as legislation that would authorize $100 million annually through 2024 for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide grants and rebates for projects and state programs that reduce emissions from diesel engines. In the upper chamber, Senators will resume consideration of pending presidential nominations, starting with the nomination of Kelly Craft to be Ambassador to the United Nations.