Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Congress Returns to Weighty List of Unfinished Business

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Congress Returns to Weighty List of Unfinished Business

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * Congress returns on Tuesday with a critical need for a characteristic rarely evident through a contentious spring and summer cooperation between Republicans and President Barack Obama.

Lawmakers face a weighty list of unfinished business and looming deadlines, including a stopgap spending bill to keep the government open beyond Sept. 30. The most intractable issues a solution to a yearlong battle over agency budgets and a deal on a long-sought highway bill have been kicked to the fall.

"It's going to take a sense of give and take on both sides," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. "The big deal will be, 'Can you come to a deal on transportation, debt ceiling and avoiding sequester?' So a large budget deal will determine, I think, whether or not we've really been successful."

Automatic budget cuts called sequestration are the result of a hard-fought deal Obama signed in a 2011.

GOP leaders are playing down talk of a government shutdown that's being driven by conservatives determined to use the spending legislation to strip funds from Planned Parenthood. The organization is under intense scrutiny after secretly recorded and allegedly edited videos raised uncomfortable questions about its practices in procuring research tissue from aborted fetuses.

Cole said passing a short-term spending bill would not be "a contention-free exercise."

The first days for Congress will be marked by a fierce debate over the nuclear deal with Iran that Republicans insist makes too many concessions to Tehran. Democrats have rallied behind the president and have already demonstrated they have the votes to sustain a promised Obama veto of a resolution challenging the hard- won agreement.

Also on the crowded fall agenda are efforts to increase the government's borrowing authority and avoid a first-ever federal default; extend some 50 tax breaks; pass a defense policy bill that Obama has threatened to veto; and renew the Federal Aviation Administration's authority to spend money. …

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