A look at Congress’ to-do list for the lame-duck session that begins Nov. 14 and for 2017, when a new Congress will convene and a new president will take office.
A continuing resolution signed into law Thursday by President Barack Obama extends government funding through Dec. 9, forcing Congress to act by then or face a government shutdown. Only one of the 12 annual appropriations bills for the 2016 fiscal year has been completed.
—Flint water crisis.
Advocates for helping Flint, Michigan, address its lead-tainted water crisis have won $220 million in a Senate-passed water projects bill and less in the House version. GOP leaders, facing a logjam on this week’s stopgap spending bill, have offered concrete assurances that lawmakers will take care of Flint.
Obama wants Congress to approve the 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership, but congressional leaders of both parties say action is unlikely. Nonetheless the White House is pushing for action on the legacy-burnishing deal.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said repeatedly that he will not advance Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, and the White House appears to have largely given up hope. The lame-duck session will be the last window for action.
McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan hope for action on the 21st Century Cures bill, a sweeping biomedical research funding bill.
—National Defence Authorization Act
House and Senate negotiators are expected to finalize the annual defence policy bill that authorizes funds for the Pentagon to pay troops and buy weapons, aircraft and other war-fighting material. It’s one of the few bipartisan bills that Congress has completed for more than a half century.
The government hits its borrowing cap in March and Congress needs to raise it shortly thereafter. Otherwise, there would be a disastrous, first-ever default on U.S. obligations like interest payments, government employee paychecks and Social Security payments.
Presuming the Senate does not act during the Obama administration, there will be a vacancy on the Supreme Court that the new president must fill and a narrowly divided Senate must confirm.
—Budget and spending
There’s a good chance that some or all of this year’s 11 unfinished spending bills could carry over until early next year. Then, lawmakers would have to start up again, confronting the return of tight spending “caps” on the Pentagon and domestic agencies after two years of hard-fought relief. Partisan cross-currents, political gamesmanship and tea party resistance have all combined to create the current standstill.
—Children’s Health Insurance Program
Funding for the health insurance program for low-income families with children expires at the end of next September and legislative action is needed to extend it.
Action would be needed on a variety of soon-to-expire tax cuts, including more than a dozen renewable energy incentives renewed last year. The really big and popular tax “extenders,” like the research and development tax credit, were made permanent last year. What’s left is a grab bag of items such as deducting mortgage insurance that may not be popular enough to get renewed on their own.
—Federal Aviation Administration
Congress will have to again pass legislation extending FAA programs after already doing so in 2016. A bill signed by Obama in July extended the programs until September 2017 but left some major issues unresolved.