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Congress Takes Extended Summer Break

Because of the 1970 Legislative Reorganization Act, on July 31st, both Chambers of Congress were required to adjourn sine die, which means “without any future date being designated” (as for resumption) or literally “without a day.”  In practical terms, this means that Congress will not be in session during the month of August nor the first week in September — since both the House and Senate have tacked on a “Constituent Work Week” to the end of the designated August recess period.

If the current schedule holds, the House actually has only three designated “D.C.” work weeks between now and the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2014).  They return on September 8th and will be in session for two weeks before taking a second “Constituent Work Week” between September 22 and 26.  This is significant because, as of this writing, the House has passed only seven of the 12 FY 15 appropriations bills.  Funding for EPA has passed the House Appropriations Committee but has not been scheduled for a Floor vote.  Across the Capitol, the Senate has yet to pass any of the funding measures that need to be in place by the end of this fiscal year to keep the government running.  Senators, however, are scheduled to be in town for the month of September.  They should also be around for parts of October, in contrast to their House counterparts who have designated the entire month of October (except for October 1-3) as time to be in their districts for the run up to the November elections.

All of this means that we should expect very little legislative action.  Big ticket items such as Highway Transportation, Veterans Administration, and Immigration Reform may see some forward progress before the November elections, but items such as Appropriations bills are more likely to be stretched into one or more Continuing Resolutions to be followed (possibly) by Omnibus funding packages.  This would mean it has been 19 years (1996) since Congress last finished its budget and appropriations work by the end of the fiscal year.