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Work Unfinished Before Recess

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Speaker John Boehner has argued that Democrats have failed to show leadership on the nation's current challenges even as Democrats accuse Senate Republicans of obstructing the legislative process for political gain.

He reiterated his frustration with Democratic leaders to wait until after the elections to take up the measure. If taken up and passed, it would need to be reconciled with the House version, which was approved in May, before being sent to the president for his signature.

Authorization for federal agriculture programs is set to expire at the end of the month, but Congress is expected to try to pass the measure during the lame-duck session.

Boehner, who has chosen not to take up a House Agriculture Committee-passed farm bill, said Friday that the House will find a path forward on the farm bill after the elections.

"When we get back, the House will take up the issue of the farm bill," Boehner said at his press conference. "It's too early to determine right now what kind of mood members are going to be in and what kind of opinions they are going to have."

Senate Democrats, and some House Republicans from farm states, have been urging House GOP leaders to pass a bill so a conference committee can be formed to negotiate a compromise. The Senate effort, led by Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), passed its five-year authorization bill in June.

Stabenow and Democrats have ruled out a short-term extension, hoping that allowing the expiration to happen will spur urgency and quick action after the elections.

Kicking the bill into the lame duck could have one auxiliary benefit, aides have said: The House bill reduces direct spending over the 2013-2022 period by about $35 billion and the Senate's by more than $23 billion, and those savings could be used to offset whatever product comes out of negotiations on the fiscal cliff.

Other bills that could come up in the lame duck include the Violence Against Women Act. Both the House and Senate passed their respective versions, but the Senate bill contains a provision that would give battered undocumented women temporary visas to encourage them to come forward.

The provision, which charges a fee for temporary visas, violates a portion of the Constitution requiring revenue-raising bills to originate in the House. That essentially allows the House to kill the Senate bill and force it to pass it again without the offending proposal.

The Senate bill also includes language extending protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Proponents of the measure hope that the bill comes up in the lame duck, and they also hope that with the elections behind them, both sides will be more willing to compromise, Senate Democratic aides said.

Other bills that could come up include legislation that would help safeguard the nation against cyber-attacks, and a postal reform bill.

Senate Republicans derailed an effort to pass a cybersecurity bill in August, charging that Democrats would not allow them to offer amendments to the measure.

Efforts to reform the post office were also derailed after the Senate passed a bill, as House Republicans failed to act.  

Action could also come on reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and approving permanent normal trade relations with Russia.

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