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Congress Leaves Unfinished Business    07/31 06:17

   As lawmakers head out of the Capitol for a five-week summer recess, they 
leave behind a pile of unfinished business that all but guarantees a painful 
fall.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- As lawmakers head out of the Capitol for a five-week 
summer recess, they leave behind a pile of unfinished business that all but 
guarantees a painful fall.

   Not long after they return in September, lawmakers face a vote on President 
Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran, a brutally divisive issue that many 
lawmakers expect will dominate voter town halls during their annual August 
break.

   With more videos showing fetal tissue collection practices, Republicans are 
increasingly focused on cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood, raising the 
prospect that Congress will spend September tied in knots over how to avoid 
shutting down the government over that issue.

   Later in the fall or winter, Congress will be faced with raising the federal 
debt limit, another issue ripe for brinkmanship, especially given the presence 
in the Senate of several presidential candidates adamantly opposed to an 
increase.

   The House wrapped up its summer session by approving a three-month extension 
of highway and transit spending and authority, kicking negotiations on that 
into the fall, as well.

   Add in deadlines to renew authorities for the Federal Aviation 
Administration, child nutrition standards and pipeline safety, and it's shaping 
up as a monster of a fall.

   "If you take a look at all of the things on the list, it'll be a lot of 
traffic going through one toll booth," Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said 
Thursday.

   Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, who leads a group of 18 
conservatives vowing to oppose any spending bill that funds Planned Parenthood, 
said: "This is one of those line-in-the-sand-type of issues. We have to figure 
out a way to fund the government without giving any more money to this 
institution."

   The effort could prevent leaders from extending current spending levels come 
the new budget year Oct. 1, since Planned Parenthood now receives more than 
$500 million in government assistance. Yet if Republicans try to use must-pass 
spending legislation to pull the organization's funding, they would have 
trouble getting past Senate Democrats and the White House.

   And that could leave Republicans, who took control of Congress this year 
promising to avoid shutdowns and "fiscal cliffs," backed into a very 
uncomfortable corner.

   "Democrats will unite against them," says Chuck Schumer of New York, the No. 
3 Senate Democrat. "This is a Republican path to shutdown."

   While the House left town Wednesday, the Senate plans one more week before 
leaving, with a cybersecurity bill and a largely symbolic vote on defunding 
Planned Parenthood.

   Along with the Iran nuclear deal, the government spending issue tops a long 
list of thorny disputes that threaten to have Republicans and Democrats at 
loggerheads for months.

   The 12 annual spending bills that fund the government are hung up on a 
variety of disagreements. That leaves Congress facing the likelihood of 
temporarily extending current spending levels, which gets lawmakers back to the 
prospect of a showdown over Planned Parenthood.

   On Iran, Republicans are largely united against the nuclear deal, while 
those Democrats who've not yet declared their position are under enormous 
pressure from both sides. The White House is imploring them to back the 
president, while groups allied with the Israeli government are warning against 
the deal in apocalyptic terms. Congress is widely expected to vote down the 
deal, at which point attention would turn to whether opponents could muster the 
two-thirds vote in each chamber to override Obama's certain veto.

   Republicans are entering their recess after a nasty spate of intraparty 
brawls laid bare the ongoing conflict between tea party-backed conservatives 
and more pragmatic party leaders on Capitol Hill. That fault line promises to 
aggravate attempts at compromise throughout the fall. Lawmakers of both parties 
point to a need for high-level budget negotiations to come up with a deal that 
could resolve some of the major issues, yet for now, nothing like that is under 
way.

   "We're going to discuss how to fund the government after the August recess," 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday.

   Republicans are painfully aware that each previous shutdown showdown with 
Obama and the Democrats has ended in their own defeat. Obama's health care law 
and executive actions on immigration survived their attempts to use budget 
bills to end them. Come September, it remains to be seen whether they will go 
down the same road.

   "I do hope that Republicans will do more than just rest and relax during 
their 39-day vacation," said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. "Because 
when they do finally show up again in September, there won't be a lot of 
patience or a lot of sympathy for the claim that they don't have time to do 
their job."


(KA)


 
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