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Washington Beat: Partisan Gridlock Could Halt Congress' Summer Assignments

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Congress is back from its week-long July 4th break, and while a full agenda, it is uncertain whether the two chambers can tackle all on its plate before the August recess. NY1's Washington reporter Geoff Bennett filed the following report.

Summer is crunch time for Congress, with political fights leaving major legislation still unsettled.

On immigration, it is up to the House of Representatives to take the next step. Unlike the Senate, the House has a series of piecemeal measures, instead of a comprehensive reform bill. None offer a path to citizenship or address the question of what to do about undocumented immigrants already here.

Congress must also figure out what to do about the farm bill. House conservatives want bigger cuts to the food stamp program, which makes up most of the bill.

Senate Democrats say it is time for the House to take action.

"The Senate has passed a farm bill. It's the second time the Senate has passed a farm bill," said Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat from North Carolina. "I think it's very important that the House take up a farm bill."

Congress will also have to strike a deal on interest rates for federally subsidized student loans. Those rates doubled on July 1, with Congress unable to reach an agreement. Senate Democrats want a fixed interest rate, while House Republicans want to tie rates to the financial markets.

Then there is the issue of the unprecedented backlog of presidential nominations, held up by partisan infighting, in some cases, for months.

"We don't have a Secretary of Labor, we don't have a Consumer Financial Protection Board director, we don't have judges. We have judicial emergencies across the country because of vacancies. We don't have an EPA administrator. The list goes on and on," said Stephen Spaulding, a Common Cause staff counsel.

There are just four legislative weeks left before members of Congress head home in August, and it is not yet clear when or if any of these issues will be resolved.

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