Congress returns for a three-week sprint to its August recess, with declining support and momentum for the Senate’s healthcare overhaul. Conservative Senators Ted Cruz (TX) and Mike Lee (UT) are pushing hard to move the bill further right, a plan that has many moderates balking. And some senators are already predicting the repeal plan is doomed and Republicans will have to work with Democrats to get anything done. A vote is not expected this week as GOP leaders await an updated estimate from the Congressional Budget Office after making tweaks before the recess, hoping the changes improve the prediction that 22 million fewer people will have insurance under the GOP plan. With a slim 52-seat majority, Republicans can only afford to lose two senators. No Democrats are expected to support the repeal bill. At least 10 Republican senators are opposed to the Senate’s legislation, and GOP senators signaled over the recess that they don’t think they are near an agreement.
In the House, the annual defense authorization is expected to get a vote this week and is likely to attract fights over undocumented immigrants serving in the military, the war on terror, Russia, Turkey, and a host of other hot-button issues. This week’s vote will come as Republicans try to reach an agreement on a budget resolution for the next fiscal year, which will establish the groundwork for keeping the government funded after September and open the procedural avenue they’re using for tax reform. Hundreds of amendments have been filed to the legislation that range from imposing punishment on Turkey for its security officials’ role in a brawl outside the Turkish embassy in Washington earlier this year to slapping sanctions on Russia for violating a landmark arms treaty.