By Billy House
September 15, 2013 | 12:30 p.m.
The deadlines have been clear for months. Yet Republicans and Democrats once again are locked in seemingly immutable positions over government spending and the debt ceiling, with a partial government shutdown potentially just weeks away.
The crisis over Syria and its chemical-weapons use remains unsettled. And there are plans this week for lawmakers to address other legislative issues, including House action on the food stamp portion of a five-year farm bill.
But a short-term funding agreement must emerge to keep the government operating beyond Sept. 30, and a debt-limit deal is needed by mid-October to avoid the risk of default. Even so, negotiations seem stuck until House Republicans resolve internal divisions over whether these deadlines should be used as leverage for repealing or delaying the Affordable Care Act.
Here’s what else Congress is up to this week:
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., says Republicans are set to complete their chamber’s version of a five-year farm bill reauthorization, in a vote on a revised version that contains $40 billion in cuts over 10 years to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. That’s roughly twice what was proposed in a bill earlier this year, which was defeated in a floor vote. House passage will finally enable a two-chamber conference; the Senate’s farm bill cuts the food stamp program by $4.5 billion over 10 years.
The Senate will return to the Energy Efficiency Act sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio. Debate on amendments came to a standstill last week after Sen. David Vitter, R-La., blocked his colleagues from proceeding with an amdendment relating to the Affordable Care Act. Pending amendments include one finding the Keystone XL oil pipeline in the national interest and two others that curtail the Obama administration’s climate-change regulations.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is hold a hearing Thursday on the president’s nomination of Caroline Kennedy to become ambassador to Japan. In addition, the committee will consider the nominations of Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson to become assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs and Greg Starr to become assistant secretary of State for Diplomatic Security—hot-button posts in the wake of the Benghazi attacks.
The Senate is to also consider two judicial nominees, Patricia E. Campbell-Smith and Elaine D. Kaplan, for the Court of Federal Claims. A roll-call vote is expected Monday evening.
Amid the vigorous resistance to Obamacare’s implementation, Gary Cohen, who heads the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is to testify on Thursday about implementation and readiness before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee.
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