Congress must prove its mettle this fall; it has no choice

Congress will have to prove its mettle this fall. It has no choice.

Republicans have little to show for their first seven months of controlling the White House and Capitol Hill. The Senate sent Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and Congress passed bills bolstering veterans’ health programs and financing the Food and Drug Administration. It approved another sanctioning Russia for its 2016 election meddling, which President Donald Trump resentfully signed knowing Congress would lopsidedly override a veto.

Lawmakers returning from recess after Labor Day will confront a pile of bills they must approve. They’ll also face another stack of work they’ve promised to tackle and that GOP voters elected them to achieve.

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REPUBLICANS ARE IN CHARGE …

… But have yet to prove they can deliver their promised agenda or accomplish the basics of governing.

Congressional leaders recognize this risks blowback in next year’s midterm elections. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told a displeased voter in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, last week, “We’ve got to get it done.”

September will give Republicans a chance to complete their responsibilities with minimal fuss. If they deliver a tax cut, GOP thinking goes, much will be forgiven.

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MONEY

Two must-do items will dominate Congress’ September agenda: increasing the government’s debt limit to prevent a jarring federal default and passing a temporary spending bill to avert a government shutdown.

Many Republicans can’t bring themselves to back a debt limit boost. But they run the government, and it’s their responsibility to deliver those votes. Democratic support will be required, and some hope they’ll win concessions in exchange.

A stopgap measure will be needed because the 12 annual spending bills are behind schedule. There’s no agreement on their overall price tag, which will be in the $1 trillion-plus range.

One wild card is whether Mr. Trump will press to fund the U.S.-Mexico border wall he’s pledged. That could spark a nasty confrontation with Democrats.

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TAXES

The White House and Republicans promise to revamp the loophole-choked tax code and lower rates for corporations and individuals. Along with repealing and replacing President Barack Obama’s health care law, this is holy grail for the GOP.

But core principles remain unresolved, including whether the effort would further bloat the budget deficit. Crucial details must be settled, among them how far to lower rates and which tax credits and deductions would be erased. The last…

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