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They're Back

September 8, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Capitol Building

After more than a month of campaigning and conventioning, U.S. senators and representatives return to work today to begin the final homestretch of this session of Congress. The official adjournment date is set for September 26th, but given the contentious issues they’re hoping to resolve, Congress will likely be back again after the November elections for a lame duck session.

First and foremost on the legislative agenda is reaching an agreement on offshore oil drilling. Since before the August recess, Republicans have been demanding a vote on a stand-alone measure to repeal a moratorium on drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) that has been in place for 27 years. Democrats, many of whom have recently come around to accept some expanded drilling, want to pass a comprehensive energy bill that includes a limited expansion of offshore drilling, improvements in the environmental regulations of drilling, a repeal of tax breaks for oil companies, renewable energy tax credits and a measure to crack down on speculation in the oil markets.

Tied up in the whole drilling debate is the fact that Congress has to pass a bill to fund the entire government (known as a continuing resolution) by September 30th, or else let the government completely shut down. Some Republicans are already threatening to risk a government shutdown if Democrats don’t give them a full expansion of offshore drilling.

To see the House of Representatives’ full schedule for the week, click here. And a rough outline of the Senate’s agenda can be seen here.

The first bill up for a vote in the Senate will be the Defense Authorization Act, S.3001, which was filibustered by Senate Republicans in July over unrelated offshore drilling amendments. Republicans have decided to back off their filibuster of that bill, but a contentious debate is still expected, especially over a Democratic amendment to require that Congress approve any long-term security agreement between the U.S. and Iraq.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our post, 8 Controversial Bills That Congress Still May Pass, to see more legislation that could easily be taken up before adjournment. Also, let’s keep on this – Pass S.223!

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