After seeing last week’s recess partly defined by contentious social issues such as gay marriage, House Republicans hope to use the next several weeks to plow through a number of must-pass measures while contrasting their fiscal policies with the Democrats’ policies.
With a budget reconciliation resolution on deck and a possible bipartisan deal on legislation to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank — as well as the appropriations process — the next several weeks will feel more like an off-year grind instead of the ramp up to major elections.
“It’s not sexy ... but it’s important,” a senior GOP leadership aide said.
“We’ve got a lot to do. It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks,” the aide added.
The House will formally get the appropriations process under way during this work period when the Commerce, Justice and science spending bill comes to the floor. Although aides said they expect the floor process to be more controlled than it was last year — when lawmakers spent days, and some nights, slogging through amendments — Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) remains committed to an open process, and the spending debate will set the backdrop for most of the summer.
One area where there could be fireworks will be the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Although the Senate last month passed its version on a broad bipartisan basis, House Republicans have rejected that bill and will instead pursue their own legislation.
Additionally, look for Republicans to return to their jobs message. “We’ll continue that drumbeat on small-business job creators,” the GOP leadership aide explained, particularly on tax and regulatory issues.
The House will also look to pass defense and intelligence authorization bills this month, while transportation reauthorization and postal reform measures could also be in the offing.
The agenda is a marked difference from last week, when despite being away from Washington, D.C., Republicans were temporarily drawn into the culture wars when conservative religious groups forced Richard Grenell, an openly gay foreign policy adviser to the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, to step down.
Although Republicans have periodically nodded to social conservatives during the past two years with votes on abortion, leaders in the House have been loath to take their attention away from economic messaging.
Speaking on his radio show last week, American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer crowed over Grenell’s departure as the religious right’s first major scalp of the 2012 elections.
“This is a huge win, and it’s a huge win for us in regard to Mitt Romney because Mitt Romney has been forced to say, ‘Look, I overstepped my bounds here. I went outside my parameters here. I went off the reservation with this hire. The pro-family community has called me back to the table here,’” Fischer said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters in the Capitol after a speech on the Senate floor that accused the CIA of searching computers set up for Congressional staff for their research of interrogation programs.