Congress returns from its August break next week and is expected to work through October 8. The pending business in the Senate is a small-business lending bill that tied up the Senate throughout most of July. Although there are several major bills that could be considered, including appropriations, energy legislation and a possible extension of the Bush tax cuts that will expire at the end of the year, IDFA does not expect that they will be resolved in the final four weeks of the regular session.
To resolve the small-business lending bill, the Senate must first complete action on competing proposals to fix a provision that was passed as part of the health care reform bill earlier this year. One revenue raiser used to offset some costs of that bill was a provision to require businesses to report every business expense above $600. Republicans have been pressing for full repeal of the measure. Recognizing that the provision will impose a major new reporting burden on businesses but not wanting to give up all of the revenue offset, Democrats have backed off the provision and are seeking a compromise solution. Votes on the competing proposals have been scheduled for next week.
Question Mark for Food Safety
A big question mark for IDFA's legislative priorities is whether the Senate will consider and pass a food safety bill in the next few weeks. S. 510 has been high in the queue for several weeks but has yet to see floor action. There are dozens of bills waiting to be considered by the Senate, and time is running out on food safety legislation. The massive egg recall in August will likely put some pressure on Congress to complete work on the food safety bill, but whether the Senate will respond will not be known for the next week or two. If the Senate does pass a food safety bill, it would still need to be conferenced with a similar bill that passed the House of Representatives last year.
Very little progress has been made on appropriation bills, and Congress is expected to pass a continuing resolution when the fiscal year-end arrives on September 30. A lame-duck session is already being planned starting in mid-November and possibly extending into December.
"If the membership of Congress changes considerably, as the current outlook indicates, it will be difficult to accomplish much in a lame-duck session," said Jerry Slominski, senior vice president for legislative affairs at IDFA.