November 16, 2016

What's Ahead In The Lame Duck

  • The lame duck session of Congress runs until January 3, 2017.
  • The Senate will take on many issues from appropriations to health care to national security.
  • The Senate will not take on other issues such as nominations and trade.

There are several issues that the lame duck session of the 114th Congress – which runs until January 3, 2017 – could tackle. The Senate will not take on President Obama’s nominations or trade deals.



Appropriations: The current continuing resolution expires on December 9. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed all 12 appropriations bills at the earliest point in the year since 1988, and one of those bills, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, was enacted along with the CR. Fiscal year 2017 spending caps for discretionary spending total $1.07 trillion.



21st Century Cures: The HELP Committee held three executive sessions this year at which it passed 19 bills containing 50 bipartisan proposals designed to speed medical innovation. The package would speed up Washington’s approval process for new medical cures and devices, promote precision medicine, improve health information technology, and make sure federal agencies are equipped to review new products. The House has already passed its 21st Century Cures bill. Leader McConnell has said that passing the medical innovation package is a top priority for the rest of this year.



EB-5 Regional Center Program: The continuing resolution extended the EB-5 Regional Center program to December 9. The program provides visas to foreign investors who fund projects in certain regional centers. Congress could extend the program or modify it. The Judiciary Committee has held hearings on reforming EB-5 visas, and Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Leahy have introduced S. 1501, which would make significant changes to the Regional Center program.



War Supplemental: Last week, President Obama submitted to Congress a request for $11.6 billion in supplemental funding for the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. The request was submitted after the election in order to maintain the fiction that President Obama “ended two wars.” In 2009 President Obama submitted what he called his “last planned war supplemental.” He then went on to request supplemental funding every year of his presidency in the form of “Overseas Contingency Operations” spending. Last week’s submission is just the latest such request.


Defense Authorization Bill: The defense authorization bill is a critical component of national security policy making. It passed the Senate by a vote of 85 to13 in June and is currently in the conference committee process. A conference report will likely include banning the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States, a comprehensive update of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and authorizing a pay raise for service members.



Iran Sanctions Act: The Iran Sanctions Act expires at the end of this year. The law is aimed at denying Iran the resources to support terrorism and to develop weapons of mass destruction. When the Iran nuclear deal was completed, the Obama administration promised that U.S. sanctions on Iran for its support of terrorism would remain in place under the agreement.



WRDA Conference Report: The Senate could consider a conference report reconciling differences between Senate and House versions of the Water Resources Development Act of 2016. The WRDA bill supports the nation’s harbors, dams, flood protection, and other water infrastructure. It includes relief for communities with drinking water emergencies and nationwide support for clean water infrastructure. The Senate passed its version, S. 2848, by a vote of 95 to 3 on September 15. The House passed its version, H.R. 5303, by a vote of 399 to 25 on September 28. A conference committee is currently working to reconcile differences between the bills.



Tax Extenders: Last year’s tax extenders law made several of the most important tax extenders permanent, including the R&D tax credit, Section 179 expensing, state/local sales tax deductibility, an enhanced child tax credit, the American opportunity tax credit, and an enhanced earned income tax credit. Because of this, the tax extenders bill is not the must-pass bill that it used to be. However, there are 36 tax provisions that will expire at the end of 2016, including many renewable-energy tax breaks.



Energy Bill Conference Report: The Senate could consider a conference report reconciling differences between Senate and House versions of a comprehensive energy bill. The Senate bill provides for the comprehensive modernization of U.S. energy policies relating to efficiency, infrastructure, supply, and conservation. The Senate passed its version, S. 2012, by a vote of 85 to 12 on April 20. The House passed S. 2012, as amended with its version, H.R. 8, by a vote of 241 to 178 on May 25. A conference committee is currently working to reconcile differences between the bills.