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Lawmakers return to Washington with lengthy to-do list before midterms

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Washington — With Labor Day and August recess over, lawmakers are returning to Washington for the final stretch of legislative work before the midterm elections in November.

The Senate returned Tuesday, while the House officially returns next week. The Senate in particular has a heavy workload, as it takes up legislation passed by the House this summer. Democrats know they could lose control of one or both chambers in November's elections, so they want to prioritize the most important items on their agenda. 

Continuing resolution to fund the government 

Current government funding runs out after Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. It's not likely Congress will pass a comprehensive funding bill before then, so lawmakers are working on crafting a continuing resolution, or a "CR," to fund the government at current levels for a set amount of time. Without it, the government will partially shut down, something Democrats want to avoid just before voters begin casting ballots. Such funding legislation would need to pass the House and Senate before heading to President Biden's desk. 

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Chuck Schumer said Democrats will work to prevent even "a hint of a shutdown."

The White House is hoping Congress will also pass $47 billion in emergency funding for Ukraine, fighting monkeypox, COVID-19 and natural disasters. 

Marriage equality

The Senate still needs to take up the Respect for Marriage Act, which passed the House 267-157 in July with the support of 47 Republicans. The bill protects the right of same-sex couples and interracial couples to marry.  

The bill needs 60 votes to pass, meaning it will need 10 Republicans to join Democrats. Senior Senate Democrats have been considering adding the marriage equality bill to the continuing resolution to fund the government, according to a Democratic source. That could complicate the passage of both measures.

Proponents of the Respect for Marriage Act argue it's vital to enshrine marriage equality into federal law to avoid a situation where a Supreme Court backtracks on precedent set by its 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, as the court did on Roe

Judicial nominations

Democrats want to approve as many of Mr. Biden's judicial nominees as possible, particularly in case they lose control of the Senate when the new Congress is seated in January. More than 40 nominees to appeals and district courts are awaiting Senate confirmation.

Jan. 6 committee

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol has said it will have more hearings in September, although nothing has been announced yet. 

Permitting reform 

Schumer and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia struck an agreement to move forward with legislation that would expedite environmental reviews of energy infrastructure projects. That agreement was key to winning Manchin's vote on the climate and tax bill, formally called the Inflation Reduction Act. 

Melissa Quinn and Jack Turman contributed to this report.

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