The influx of migrant children on the U.S.-Mexico border has sparked a furious round of finger-pointing in Washington, and the House and Senate each plan to vote on competing spending bills aimed at stemming the crisis.
Yet, the two parties are nowhere close to an agreement, and each is hoping to pass a bill before Friday so lawmakers won't have to go before angry constituents in their districts with nothing to show for their efforts.
It's entirely possible that neither the House nor Senate will muster enough votes for their bills, resulting in a complete congressional whiff on the border mess. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters on Tuesday that the House would likely vote on its $659 million package Thursday, and while he said he thought there was "sufficient" support for it, he acknowledged G.O.P. leaders had "a little more work to do" to win the vote.
With all the bickering, the likelihood is that Obama will have nothing to sign when lawmakers head home for the summer.
Congress has until the end of September to plug a gap in the Highway Trust Fund that could force states to halt or slow construction on infrastructure projects throughout the country, threatening jobs. With Democrats and Republicans far apart on a long-term solution, the legislative haggling is all about how far to punt the ball. The House passed a bill to fund highway programs through May, kicking the question of a more permanent fix into the next Congress (when Republicans could control the Senate). Senate Democrats say that is too long for a stop-gap measure, and with help from Republicans, they successfully amended the House bill so that the shortfall in the trust fund will only be filled until December. That would force Congress to face the challenge again in its lame-duck session after the November elections.
It's now Boehner's move, and he made clear on Tuesday that the House would simply re-attach its version and ping-pong it back to the Senate. With the clock running out, the latest volleys make it more likely the Highway Trust Fund will remain in limbo into September.
Legislation responding to the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs is a rare bright spot for Congress, as the bill is about to become law — albeit belatedly. The House is expected to pass the bipartisan compromise with strong support on Wednesday, and the Senate could send it to the president's desk by the end of the week.
House Republicans have a lot on their plate, but they don't want to leave Washington before authorizing a lawsuit against President Obama over his implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The proposed lawsuit accuses the president of making changes to Obamacare without congressional authorization.