Lawmakers are headed back to work on Capitol Hill with most of the focus on whether or not they will extend some - or all - of the Bush tax cuts. However, there is a great deal more on the legislative agenda that remains undone. The Small Business Jobs Act has been languishing in the Senate. It would create a $30 billion government fund designed to encourage lending, and $12 billion in tax breaks. Key amendments offered by Senators Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., aimed at cutting down the volume of paperwork they say could crush small businesses as a result of the health care bill, are likely to head to a vote Tuesday. The entire bill could be voted up or down sometime later this week.
There are also 12 funding bills that Congress has yet to send to the White House. They are critical pieces of legislation that will authorize the money for key government programs starting October 1st. While the House has already passed a measure authorizing defense programs for 2011, the Senate has yet to follow suit. That's primarily because the House legislation contains a measure calling for the end to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. There is also a fight still brewing over campaign finance legislation drafted in response to a Supreme Court decision relaxing spending restrictions for corporations and unions.
Analysts doubt much of the "to do" list will get done before Election Day. Larry Sabato, Director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics says, "I'm not sure the two parties could come together on a Mother's Day Resolution between now and November 2nd, much less something as complicated as tax cuts or appropriations bills which sometimes have thousands of provisions, at least a few hundred of which are controversial." Experts also warn that if Democrats try to rush through any major legislation while they still hold strong majorities backlash could follow. Republican strategist David Winston argues, "They risk looking like they understand they're about to lose everything, and so they're about to jam through unpopular policies."