The only “must do” item on the calendar is to sidestep a government shutdown,
and then there’s the stuff Congress doesn’t have to do...
BY JONATHAN TAETS
The week following the mid- term elections, Congress will reconvene for a lame duck session to wrap up business for 2014. During this period — which could stretch into December — several key decisions
must be made, opening the opportunity for a lot
of shenanigans. After all, defeated and retiring
members of Congress will be casting votes and the
political situation in Washington, D.C., could take
a significantly different direction when the next
Congress convenes in January. So what should we
be watching for?
Exactly what will be on the congressional agenda for
this lame duck session is still very much in question.
Much is dependent on which party wins control of the
Senate on Election Day. Republicans have a realistic
chance to win the minimum of six seats they need to
take over the majority. If successful, their win may
change the agenda for the next few weeks as congressional leaders recalibrate their political compasses to
determine the best strategy to achieve their objectives.
Regardless who takes control, not much activity
will take place over the next few weeks. However,
below are a few scenarios, based on which party wins
control, along with a prediction of what actions Congress may take during the lame duck session.
The One Must-Do Agenda Item
The primary obligation of the Congress — as dictated by the Constitution — is to fund the government for the next fiscal year. Before leaving town
Congress passed what is known as a Continuing
Resolution (CR for short) to extend existing funding
levels for a period of time and keep the government
functioning — in this case until December 11.
On a positive note, nobody expects a repeat of last
October’s government shutdown dramatics, which
wrecked havoc on the nation’s economy. Yet Con-
gress is also unlikely to complete the remaining ap-
propriations bills to fund the government through-
out the next fiscal year. More likely Congress will
pass yet another CR, but how long will that last?
If the Republicans gain control of the Senate, the CR
will be relatively short, possibly lasting into January.
Republicans will want to exert their majority status
quickly and will likely use the funding mechanism to
bend the agenda to their will as soon as feasibly possi-
ble. If the Senate remains status quo with a Democrat-
ic majority, Congress may decide to provide additional
time (maybe until March), to provide opportunity for
the new Congress to get organized and figure out how
to address the funding issue less anxiously.
In addition to the CR it seems likely Congress may
take a look at a handful of tax issues. Hopefully, it
will come to some form of agreement on tax extenders — the business tax provisions that are often routinely extended near year’s end
but were left to expire at the end of
2013. We’ve written about the
different approaches taken by
the House and Senate
committees — the
House is looking
to make some of
permanent and the
Senate is looking to
extend them all for another two-year period.
It’s very possible that
Congress may address
the handful of tax
provisions that the
House voted to make
good news is that
a couple of these