Published: Wed, September 07, 2016
Medical | By Garry George

Congress has long to-do list, but little chance of action

Congress has long to-do list, but little chance of action

The U.S. Congress was back in session Monday morning after a long summer recess and with an extensive list of matters pending like passing budgets for the next fiscal year and taking action to stop the spread of the Zika virus around the country.

Rick Scott has canceled a trip to Washington where he was to meet with congressional leaders about funding for the Zika virus.

In the House, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., was tapped to gavel in the abbreviated, election-season session that will last only about 20 days. While lawmakers aren't scheduled to recess again until the end of the month, Senate Republicans are under pressure to reach a solution sooner so vulnerable members can head back home to campaign.

Last week, Florida found the Zika virus in three groups of mosquitoes trapped in Miami Beach - the first time this has happened in the continental USA - and authorities say a particular flower is making mosquito control much more hard. Other measures, such as gun-control legislation and the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, face longer odds for passage.

But as Republicans could face questions about Trump's presidential campaign, Democrats will be pressured to respond to continued concerns about the Clinton Foundation and its future should Hillary Clinton win the election.

Congress must only pass a short-term spending bill that would prevent the government from shutting down on October 1, which seems sure to pass, and, more daunting, pass a bill that would provide money for the fight against the Zika virus.

By the end of September they must also find a way to keep the government open because a shutdown would be a political catastrophe just weeks before voters go to the polls.

Democrats want to extend current funding levels until the end of the year, which they say would give them time to negotiate with Republicans on a broader spending package during the lame duck session after the election. But Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Thursday that he and President Barack Obama will oppose that approach and press for a short-term measure until December.

Lawmakers left Washington seven weeks ago without resolving a dispute over money for Zika.

The new provisions would take money out of Ebola research, Planned Parenthood funding and Obamacare to fund Zika research. Dozens of Zika cases have been confirmed in the political battleground state of Florida since lawmakers departed, and Republicans and Democrats are expected to revive the fight nearly immediately upon their return. They're also trying to resolve differences between the two chambers over a program that allows Afghan civilians in danger of being harmed by the Taliban to receive visas and resettle in the United States.

-Hillary Clinton: Furious the FBI didn't recommend charges against their political rival over her private email server, Republicans now are demanding that the Justice Department open a new investigation into whether the Democratic presidential nominee lied during testimony previous year before a House panel investigating the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

At the Sioux City Rotary Club late last month, Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, hinted that Garland could get a lame-duck hearing if enough senators stir interest in one after the November election.

"We've passed legislation to grow the economy, protect our communities, strengthen national security, and serve our veterans", House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, said in a memo to his caucus outlining the September agenda. Republicans also backed the new funding, but by a narrower 44%-27%; another 28% said they were undecided.

House conservatives are looking to press ahead with impeaching IRS Commissioner John Koskinen over the destruction of agency emails and misleading testimony on whether the tax agency, before his arrival, improperly scrutinized conservative groups seeking nonprofit status.

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