Lawmakers darted home on Thursday after approving stopgap funding
to avert a government shutdown and authorizing the arming and
training of moderate Syrian rebels. But those measures last only
until Dec. 11, so Congress will have to revisit them after the Nov.
Some lawmakers from both parties said this week's vote on arming and
training Syrian rebels is not enough. They want to revamp the
current authorizations to use military force, which date back more
than a decade and were focused on hunting down al-Qaeda leaders and
ousting Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
"The (authorization) that exists is very stale. It doesn't apply to
the circumstance, and I think that's a widely shared view," said
Representative Peter Welch, a Vermont Democrat.
Some Republicans want to give Obama more tools beyond air strikes to
destroy the militant group, which has taken over large parts of
Syria and Iraq, including the use of U.S. combat troops.
"I lean toward giving the president more latitude, and some of my
colleagues want to be more restrictive," said Republican Senator
John McCain of Arizona.
Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, this week proposed a new
authorization that explicitly forbids the use of U.S. ground forces
against Islamic State.
The war powers debate will coincide with efforts by House and Senate
appropriators to craft a massive, "omnibus" spending bill for fiscal
2015. Work so far on the 12 normal spending bills - seven passed by
the House and none by the Senate - will form the basis of the $1.014
"We have a more solid base to negotiate from because we've passed
appropriations bills, and the Senate hasn't passed any," a House
Republican aide said.
Although the overall spending levels are largely unchanged, there
will be disagreements over House-passed cuts to housing and
transportation programs and Republican-drafted environmental
provisions aimed at thwarting new regulations for mine waste and
The temporary spending measure passed this week includes funds to
battle the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and allow border security
agencies to shift funds around to deal with an influx of migrant
children from Central America at the Mexican border. Congress will
need to address those issues in the spending bill.
[to top of second column]
Republicans need to pick up six seats in November to take control of
the Senate. If that happens and, as expected, they strengthen their
majority in the House, some issues may be delayed until the new
year, when they can flex their new political strength.
In the Senate, a Republican victory could prompt Senate Majority
Leader Harry Reid of Nevada to focus the 15-day post-election
session on approving as many nominations for federal judges and
Cabinet officials as possible in a last gasp for the Democratic
There will be other issues clamoring for attention from lawmakers:
- The federal terrorism risk insurance program created after the
Sept. 11, 2001, attacks expires on Dec. 31 and needs House approval.
The Senate passed an extension by a wide margin, but conservatives
have argued for reforms. [ID:nL2N0PS1SP]
- Lawmakers from both parties want to extend about 50 temporary tax
breaks worth about $85 billion. Republicans blocked a bill on the
so-called "tax extenders" in the Senate earlier this year because of
a dispute over amendments.
- Senate Democrats want to curb corporate buyout deals known as
"inversions," in which U.S. companies move their tax domiciles
overseas to get lower rates. They could possibly add it to the tax
- Republicans want to pass a measure to allow faster negotiations
for trade deals, which they argue will bolster efforts to secure
free trade agreements with Europe and several Asian countries.
(Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson, Patricia Zengerle and
Richard Cowan; Editing by John Whitesides and Jonathan Oatis)
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