House and Senate Republicans are consumed with passing health insurance and tax reform bills, but have yet to tackle a long list of other critical measures that Congress must complete by the end of the year.
Among the ignored but must-pass items is the reauthorization of a key surveillance tool used by intelligence agencies to prevent terrorist attacks and a bill reauthorizing federal healthcare benefits for low-income children. The surveillance measure, which expires at the end of the year, faces potential opposition and delay from Republicans who are angry about intelligence leaks that have hurt the Republican White House, which could complicate passage.
Authorization for the children's health program expires on Sept. 30, a mere 12 legislative days after the House is set to return from its planned August recess. At the same time, Congress will be grappling with a deadline for passing a massive government spending bill for fiscal 2018 and possibly a bill to raise the debt ceiling.
The sheer number of issues outstanding and the various hurdles to passing them have some Republicans warning that they need to work during the August recess to get all the work done.
"The idea that we are going to leave here and go home for five weeks makes absolutely no sense," Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said. "We should be here. We should get the work done, and we should produce the results the American people elected us to produce."
The list of unfinished business already prompted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to delay the five-week summer recess until Aug. 11.
House GOP lawmakers are demanding Speaker Paul Ryan postpone the House recess too, but Republican leaders say they will cancel the break only if Senate Republicans are able to pass and send them a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.
"If Senate is going to give us a healthcare bill, we're going to stay and finish the healthcare bill," said Ryan, R-Wis.
McConnell plans a vote on the healthcare bill this week, but passage is far from certain. McConnell, assuming the Senate will approve the bill, told reporters he will use the extra two weeks in August to tackle a $640 billion measure to reauthorize the nation's Defense Department as well as a bill renewing the Food and Drug Administration's fee system for drug and device manufacturers, which expires on Sept. 30.
But many other expiring bills remain unfinished.
Federal Aviation Administration funding ends on Sept. 30. The House and Senate have each authored legislation to renew the FAA programs, but the two chambers face a major sticking point.
A House provision backed by President Trump and Ryan would privatize the nation's air traffic control system, which now operates under the FAA. The Senate bill excludes that provision, setting up a possible fight between the two chambers that could make it more difficult for Congress to clear a bill by the deadline.
The federal flood insurance program also expires on Sept. 30 and is far from completion in Congress. The House has passed a series of flood insurance bills out of committee but has not scheduled floor consideration. The Senate has yet to approve any bill at the committee level because lawmakers are not finished writing legislation.
"That's extremely important to my state and several other states," said Sen. John Kennedy, R-La. "There are a lot of traditions, and people have things to do back home, but we can't pass bills back home. We've got to be here."
The jammed September schedule will be dominated by the quest for a fiscal 2018 spending deal. Government funding runs out on Sept. 30, yet both chambers are far behind on passing individual spending legislation.
Republican leaders said it is likely they will combine the funding measures together into one big spending deal with Democrats in order to beat the deadline.
"At the end of the day, we'll find a solution," Ryan said.