Congress this week will tackle immigration reform, farming and abortion, though lawmakers also will continue to focus much of their time on a growing list of scandals surrounding the Obama administration.
The Senate will continue debate on comprehensive immigration reform, focusing this week on border security.
Supporters of the "Gang of Eight" immigration reform plan now under consideration are looking for ways to pass the bill with at least 70 votes - 10 more than needed to prevent a filibuster. That kind of support would allow senators to increase pressure on House Republicans to take up the comprehensive plan.
To attract the additional support, the Senate this will consider amendments to the bipartisan compromise that would increase border security, a top priority for those critical of the Gang of Eight plan. Republicans, in particular, are insisting that the border be demonstrably secured before the 11 million illegal immigrants now living in the U.S. are given a pathway to citizenship, a top Democratic priority.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., co-author of the bipartisan plan, is working with other lawmakers on an amendment that would leave Congress in charge of approving a border security plan, one of his top aides told The Washington Examiner.
The bill as currently written leaves border security up to the Department of Homeland Security, an executive branch agency.
Rubio's amendment could attract additional Republican votes, but many GOP lawmakers are also considering a stricter proposal from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, that would require the border to be completely sealed and for border security agents to be apprehending 90 percent of people trying to get into the country illegally before illegal immigrants could be considered for citizenship.
On the House side, the Judiciary Committee this week will consider a series of bills dealing with narrower aspects of immigration reform. That legislation will deal individually with border security, and a guest worker program for immigrants working in the U.S. as farm laborers.
Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., opposes the comprehensive approach the Senate is pursuing.
"Immigration reform is too important and complex to not examine each piece in detail," Goodlatte said.
The Senate has already passed a $955 billion farm bill that would reduce funding for some farm subsidy programs and cut the federal food stamp program by more than $4 billion. The House this week will take up its own version of the bill, which would require even deeper cuts in program spending, including $20 billion from food stamps.
Critics charge that the savings from reducing payments to farmers is being used largely to increase expensive crop insurance subsidies.
The House will take up the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a measure that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy anywhere in the United States. The measure is backed by socially conservative lawmakers, who cite scientific research about the development of unborn babies and their ability to feel pain. Most House Democrats will oppose the measure. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the bill is another attempt by Republicans to eventually ban all abortions.
Meanwhile, committees in both the House and Senate are expected to continue their questioning of the Obama administration over who ordered the IRS to target conservative groups seeking tax exempt status and the secret monitoring of journalists by the Justice Department.