As Congress returns after a five-week break, lawmakers will face a short must-do list before, in a few weeks, leaving Washington again for a final burst of pre- election campaigning.

The most pressing September agenda item is a measure to fund federal agencies, including construction programs, for at least part of the next fiscal year, which starts on Oct. 1. Also expiring on Sept. 30 is the authorization for the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., which aids construction-equipment makers and other companies seeking overseas business.

Passing a spending bill by Sept. 30 is probably "Job One" for Congress this month, says Brian Pallasch, American Society of Civil Engineers managing director for government relations and infrastructure initiatives. With so little time before fiscal year 2014 ends and none of the 12 individual appropriation bills for 2015 yet enacted, Congress seems likely to turn to a stopgap continuing resolution (CR) to keep federal programs going beyond Sept. 30. Pallasch says, "Clearly the government needs to function past October 1 ... whether that's constructing roads or constructing federal facilities. And so having some form of funding bill in place before they leave is going to be imperative."

When a CR may be unveiled, what its length and funding levels will be and whether it can pass are not clear. Kevin Smith, an aide to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said in an Aug. 28 email, "No decisions have been made on the CR at this point, and it's likely we won't make any announcement on the details of the CR until after the members return." A Senate staffer via email said, "We are considering a number of possibilities, and [a CR] is one of them."

Jeffrey Shoaf, Associated General Contractors of America senior executive director for government affairs, says Senate Democrats favor an omnibus bill for all of FY15, but some Republicans prefer a CR until December. In any case, Shoaf adds, passing a spending bill is the critical action so lawmakers can leave Washington and shift "into their full-on campaign mode, instead of 90% campaign mode."

There is a tussle over reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank. Heavy-equipment firms and other business groups back the idea. But conservative organizations and some Capitol Hill Republicans oppose it.

Bill Lane, Caterpillar Inc. global governmental affairs director, says, "The bottom line is, if our customers have access to Ex-Im Bank, we tend to get the business. If they only have access to the export credit agencies in Asia or in Europe, our competitors tend to get the business." He adds, "We just think there should be a level playing field." Lane expects an Ex-Im extension to be attached to the CR.

But House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, a strong Ex-Im critic, said in a statement, "Ex-Im rigs [the field] in favor of a few powerful Fortune 500 corporations that are the overwhelming beneficiaries of Ex-Im."

Shoaf says AGC also will seek to lay the groundwork this month for issues coming up in a lame-duck session. They include extending a law expiring on Dec. 31 that aids ailing multi-employer pension plans.