Congress returns to a full plate, with several sides of short-term extensions.

All eyes will be on the Deficit Reduction Committee, which holds its first meeting today.  However, even in the absence of the so-called “Super Committee,” Congress would not suffer from a lack of work.

On the surface transportation front, the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee is marking up a four-month extension of federal highway and transit programs. In a conference call with stakeholders, Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said she expects the four-month extension to quickly make its way to President Obama’s desk. Beyond that, she said she expects her Committee to take up a two-year reauthorization bill in the next weeks.

Also on today’s calendar, the Senate Banking Committee is taking up legislation to reauthorize the national Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  While the House has passed a reauthorization bill, Congress will likely have to pass another short-term extension of the NFIP to allow enough time for the Senate to take up the bill and for a Conference Committee to resolve the differences between the House and Senate bills.

Similarly, with a House-Senate Conference Committee unable to overcome disagreements on a long-term reauthorization of federal aviation programs, Congress will have to pass yet another short-term extension to keep airport grants flowing.

On appropriations, the higher discretionary spending caps outlined in the debt ceiling package appear to have smoothed the way for Congress to complete work on FY 2012 appropriations, most likely in the form of an omnibus bill that wraps up all of the appropriations bills.  However, with only 10 congressional work days remaining until the beginning of the fiscal year, the congressional leadership is looking at passing a short-term continuing resolution in the next week or two.


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