Congress returns from 4th of July week to a busy, busy slate of business, and they've only got a month to get through it before leaving town for August recess. The burden falls mostly on the Senate, as it will take up a series of bills already passed by the House, but they've got an extra week to get through it all: the House is scheduled to leave July 30; the Senate is currently slated to stay another week. "There are a hundred things lined up on the tarmac," as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's communications director, Don Stewart, put it.
- Financial reform. After initial plans to pass the bill before July 4 fell through, Senate Democrats will chase moderate GOP votes and look to pass the bill before August.
- A $37 billion supplemental war-funding bill for Afghanistan and Iraq. Cuts to education programs, including the administration's Race to the Top initiative, have injected some disagreement.
- Elena Kagan's confirmation. Kagan hasn't yet been approved by the Judiciary Committee, so it appears the full Senate will vote on her nomination just before members leave town.
- Energy reform. After the last big push fell apart, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will give relevant committee chairmen a new set of scaled-down options that he thinks can get 60 votes. Since energy politics can be tricky, and since a new bill hasn't yet been drafted, it would be difficult to pass a significant package before the Senate leaves town.
- Unemployment extenders. With a longer-term solution for unemployment insurance languishing in a conference committee, the Senate has been holding periodic debate on six-week extensions of unemployment insurance and state Medicare funding. The latest one still has to get done.
- A small-business bill to extend some tax credits and raise the cap on small business loans by $5 billion.
- A significant food-safety bill, already passed by the House, that would make inspections more frequent and give the FDA full recall authority on food that's suspected to be tainted. It's largely non controversial, but an amendment from Sen. Dianne Feinstein to ban BPA (Bisphenol-A) from food and beverage containers is making the bill tougher to pass.