Summer Lull Ends as Old Fights Greet Congress and Campaigns

NYT FDCarl Hulse 9/8/2015

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Good Tuesday morning. Lawmakers return from their breaks well rested and ready to pick up the gauntlets from where they had dropped them. With Labor Day behind them, Congress and the presidential candidates have a chance to reassess their battle plans and to gird for the next stage of the fight.

Congress returns on Tuesday from its summer break to a potentially tumultuous month, beginning with a fight over the Iran nuclear agreement, despite its predetermined outcome.

Democrats have already shown that they have the votes to sustain a veto of any congressional resolution trying to block the nuclear deal, shifting the focus to whether the legislation will even get to President Obama.

Over the weekend, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, called on Republicans to agree to a 60-vote threshold for approval of the measure, confident that they can’t meet that standard for passage. Republicans might not have 60 votes for passage, but they could possibly assemble the votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster. And Republican officials said that they were not inclined to accept any “artificial limits” on the Iran process.

While they can’t halt the agreement, Senate Republicans believe that the politics of the Iran debate play in their favor and that Democratic support of the agreement will haunt lawmakers in 2016 and beyond.

“I think it is a big problem for anyone who votes for it,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader. “It is one of those rare issues that we deal with that lives on.”

While Iran will take center stage this week, including with a rally on Wednesday featuring the Republican presidential candidates Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, it is not the only pressing issue facing Congress.

Lawmakers need to find a way to fund the government after Sept. 30 or face a government shutdown. Republican leaders in the House and Senate would like to avoid a shutdown, but they will have to navigate conservative demands for cutting funding for Planned Parenthood — a position the White House opposes.

In addition, Pope Francis will be in Washington at the end of the month for a much-anticipated address, and he is likely to press Congress on climate change, the European migrant crisis and poverty programs.