After an unusually eventful summer recess, Congress is returning to work this week with a long to-do list driven by fiscal year deadlines, natural disasters and presidential directives.
Here’s a look at what the House and the Senate will tackle starting on Tuesday:
Creeping deadlines to keep the government functioning
The end of the month brings several critical can’t-miss deadlines.
First, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has urged lawmakers to raise the debt ceiling by Sept. 29 to prevent the government from running out of money to pay its bills. Then, when the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, Congress must also have passed a measure to fund most operations of the federal government and avoid a shutdown. It’s likely that the House and Senate will pass a short-term continuing resolution to buy themselves more time to negotiate a longer deal.
They’ll also have to contend with sometimes contrarian messaging from the White House. During a campaign event in Phoenix in August, President Donald Trump threatened a government shutdown if lawmakers did not approve funding to build his promised U.S.-Mexico border wall, but congressional Republican leaders have signaled that idea is a non-starter.
Hurricane Harvey funding
During a “Fox News Sunday” appearance, Mnuchin said he and Trump believe Congress should raise the debt ceiling and approve an initial tranche of funding for Hurricane Harvey recovery together.
“The president and I believe that [the debt ceiling] should be tied to the Harvey funding. Our first priority is to make sure that the state gets money. It is critical. And to do that, we need to make sure we raise the debt limit,” Mnuchin said.
The White House has asked Congress to approve an initial $7.85 billion in supplemental spending to help afflicted areas recover from Hurricane Harvey, a senior White House official told ABC News Friday.
Most of that money would go to FEMA and a smaller portion to the Small Business Administration. It’s likely that Congress will also eventually vote on a larger package for more long-term aid, as was the case in 2013 after Hurricane Sandy, when Congress approved an initial $9.7 billion and later passed another $51 billion package, the latter amid cries of fiscal irresponsibility from some conservatives, including both Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.
While there’s no deadline to pass these funds, obviously the goal is to provide aid to Harvey relief as soon as possible.