Congress ended its summer vacation Tuesday and the greatest decision it faces might also be its most anticlimactic. But this is far from the entire workload on their plates for this session.
The controversial Iran nuclear deal, an agreement that would lift economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for the installation of nuclear inspections and that was negotiated by the Obama administration with Iran and other countries, is up for ratification by Sept. 17. But so many representatives and senators have let their positions be known that the outcome isn't in doubt. The president will have enough votes, despite congressional opposition, to sustain an eventual veto of the deal.
The Iran issue aside, Congress' return finds it facing a stack of legislation that, in many cases, has been avoided for months. As has been often the case with Congress, spending bills are at the heart of what they need to address. It will be difficult to keeping kicking that can down the road much past mid September without some kind of detente between Congress and the president. "It's going to take a sense of give and take on both sides," Rep. Tom Cole, of Oklahoma, told the Associated Press.
Unless you haven't been paying attention at all to the ways of Washington politics, cooperation hasn't been found in abundance of late. And from the look of the budding presidential debates, it seems to becoming more rare.
Congress, for example, has until the end of the month to pass a stopgap measure to keep the government open. That won't be as easy as one might think with some Republicans pledging to strip the budget of any funds for Planned Parenthood, which came under scrutiny after videos raised issues with the organization over obtaining research tissue from aborted fetuses. And though Senate leaders concede that they don't have the votes at the moment, it doesn't mean that there won't be a battle of wills.
Sticking with the financial theme, Congress will have to extend the country's debt ceiling by late October or early November, or the country could be unable to pay is bills and face default. Then there are other items, including an Oct. 29 deadline to renew federal highways programs, fights over defense spending, and a decision on whether to restore 50 tax breaks for businesses and individuals that expired earlier this year but that could be renewed in time to be claimed on 2015 tax returns.
Some items, such as the continued squabbles over Obama's health care law and immigration, will likely have to wait for the next president to help decide.
And while AP is reporting that there have been some signs that compromise is in the works on some financial issues, reaching it won't be easy. We just urge Congress to not take the government to the brink of financial gridlock. The economy is built on consumer confidence and the past few weeks have shown how a lack of confidence can fuel a stock market downturn. With the markets in such a delicate situation of late, we don't need another reason for an economic downturn. We need more than business as usual.