Both the House and Senate have left Washington for a two-week recess, off to schmooze constituents and potential campaign funders. When lawmakers get back to work the week of April 13, they will find a busy agenda. Just how much the Republican-led Congress can get done in the current political environment, however, remains very much in question.
Issue: Budget Conference
What’s happening: In a weeks-long process filled with drama and GOP-on-GOP infighting in the House, both chambers managed to pass different versions of a 2016 federal budget resolution. Both resolutions were written to existing spending caps, and would give the congressional defense committees $499 billion in base Pentagon budgetary authority as they craft their annual policy and spending bills. The House-passed measure would take the overseas contingency operations (OCO) account to $96 billion, up from $50.9 billion in the Obama administration’s request. The Senate-approved resolution also remains under the caps, and calls for an $89 billion war fund.
What to watch: The measures now head for a bicameral conference committee tasked with producing a version that can pass the House and Senate. In the former, GOP negotiators will be thinking about a version that can garner 217 Republican votes. Thus, it must appease enough defense hawks to reach that threshold. In the Senate, GOP negotiators also must keep that chamber’s defense caucus in mind — and potential procedural provisions that could be slipped into the conference measure, making it tough for appropriators to actually allocate more OCO dollars. The deadline for a final version is April 15.
Read More:Issue Tracker: Beyond Recess.