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.
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."
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.