Heading for the Exits – This is the final week before Congress begins its five-week August recess. Lawmakers have a lot baggage to pack up before they leave town. As such, there is a flurry of activity to wrap up work on items such as student loans and spending bills before lawmakers head home.
Heat Is On – The heart of the summer is upon us and Washington is feeling the heat in more than one way. In addition to record temperatures, policymakers are also feeling the heat of impending deadlines. Lawmakers have less than two weeks until their month-long August recess. Some believe that recent bipartisan deals on student loans and presidential nominations may pave the way for more breakthroughs, such as a comprehensive fiscal deal. Will they turn up the temperature to get things done or throw cold water on everything?
Weathering the Storms – Stormy weather has wreaked havoc on much of the country recently, including Washington. Meanwhile, storms of a different nature, namely a potential government shutdown and debt ceiling fight, are brewing. These squalls may not hit until fall, but they could pack a punch if policymakers don’t act now to mitigate them.
Dive In – The pools have opened to provide relief from the summer heat and an opportunity to work on those tans. Congress is back in session this week, but they are only dipping their toes into the fiscal waters. Will lawmakers dive into work to address the budget and related issues or will they stay on the deck and get burned?
Grilling Time – It’s that time of year when the grills get fired up. There’s been grilling on Capitol Hill as well, with government officials being roasted by lawmakers over the IRS scandal. Congress is home again this week, where legislators can be grilled by constituents on what they are doing about the economy and the budget. Will the recent scandals distract from efforts to agree on a budget and a larger deficit reduction package or will policymakers seek bipartisan deals in order to put the scandals behind them?
Taking It to the Limit – The statutory debt ceiling is back. The temporary suspension of the debt limit enacted earlier this year was lifted on May 19. The Treasury Department has begun extraordinary measures to hold off a default. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says the measures should last until after Labor Day, though he urged quick action.
Side-Stepping Sequestration – It was as predictable as the Washington Capitals blowing a playoff series lead. Lawmakers are looking to carve out exemptions to sequestration, including areas such as Head Start and medical research. The piecemeal approach to dealing with the sequester is not the way to go.
Lots of Buzz – The Cicadas are coming back. After maturing underground for 17 years, billions of the insects from the Brood II cohort are beginning to emerge throughout the East Coast. Some compare them to the biblical locust swarms. Whether or not they are a portent of doom, their distinctive mating call is definitely attention-grabbing. Loud, relentless calls seem to be the only way to get attention in Washington. With the budget process stalled, lawmakers seem to need constant pestering to get back on track.
Making the Call – The NFL Draft kicks off Thursday. Unlike previous drafts, there is much uncertainty as to who will go where. Washington is in a similar situation where it is unclear what direction policymakers will take. There’s no clear # 1 pick – immigration, terrorism, economy, budget, tax reform are all vying for the top spot on the agenda. Who will get the call next?
Taxing Time – This week was initially about the federal tax filing deadline, but the tragedies in Boston and Texas have shifted attention away from taxes and Washington. Our thoughts are with all those affected. The events have pushed back the Hill agenda, as well as your trusty Line Items. Lawmakers face a full plate dealing with the aftermath of these incidents as well as immigration reform. Of course, fiscal issues continue to be on the agenda as well as policymakers have been unable to come to agreement on solutions.