Congress proved able to address at least some of the nation’s most urgent problems before leaving town on Thursday, passing legislation to reform the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs and agreeing to fund the federal highway programs.
However, they will go on a five-week break without reaching a deal to address the crisis at the southern border.
After months of partisan debate, Congress managed to pass a $17 billion bipartisan bill to address mismanagement at the VA and long wait times for veterans seeking health care. Members of both parties spoke out about the need for reform, but bickering over the legislation’s price tag threatened the bill’s final passage.
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The Senate also agreed to a House-passed $10.8 billion measure that would ensure the Highway Trust Fund is solvent until May of next year. Department of Transportation officials warned that, beginning Friday, aid to states would be cut back beginning Friday if Congress did not act.
President Barack Obama is expected to sign both bills.
House Republicans will stay in Washington one more day after failing to act on a bill to deal with the influx of Central American children illegally crossing the border.
However, Republican Senators blocked a different version of the border bill late Thursday before leaving town, meaning no legislation will get to the president's desk until September at the earliest.
-- Andrew Rafferty