Wednesday, November 17, 2010

“Lame Duck” Congress Update

CAPT Marshall Hanson
ROA Legislative Director

Congress returned to Washington this week to start its "lame duck" session. Also in town are the 93 newly-elected officials who begin their orientation for the next session starting Jan. 5, 2011. A number of members of Congress who weren't reelected said their goodbyes in emotional gatherings.

An unanswered question is what will be passed in the next couple weeks. A top priority is a continuing resolution to finance the federal government. This past year, Congress did not pass any appropriation funds. While an omnibus budget bill has been suggested, it is believed that there is enough disagreement on its content that its passage will be delayed until next year. Some say that the CR may cover the remainder of FY-2011.

Because of how current U.S. Code is written a proposed 1.4 percent pay raise for the military will automatically take effect on Jan. 1, 2011.

The House and the Senate will also consider extending the Bush tax cuts that are expected to expire. This is not looking like a permanent extension but rather an extension for a year or two, allowing the next Congress to debate a more permanent solution. Also, the "Doc Fix" will be addressed. Currently, Medicare and TRICARE medical provider fees are scheduled to be reduced by nearly 25 percent in December. Congress will likely prevent this from happening, but will kick the deadline into next year rather than fixing the problem.

It is cannot be said whether the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will be passed. While the Senate may schedule its version of the bill, Senate leader Harry Reid wants to limit debate to just four amendments. The minority party may try to filibuster the bill, as they have asked for open debate. Such an action would push the defense legislation from consideration this year. Word from the House is not any more encouraging. The likely incoming Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Buck McKeon, briefed ROA and others at a Monday event that it’s not likely Congress will pass the massive defense policy bill by year’s end. The Defense authorization is mired down in debate over several controversial issues that include repeal of "Don't ask, Don't tell" and permitting abortions in military hospitals. Rep. McKeon also shared that he supports an alternative engine for the F-35 fighter, which would potentially draw a White House veto.

With many issues threatened by gridlock in the lame duck session, it appears that Congress's return may not prove as productive as once thought. Rather than working late into December, the session may be truncated, with a lot of needed business being handed off to the new Congress. At the end of this week, Congress will return home for Thanksgiving. How long they plan to work in December still must be addressed.


Anonymous said...

I truly believe that the "Lame Duck" sessions must be revised but this would require action on the part of a less than responsible Congress. The curren office holders should be required to return to Washington during this session to responsibly arrange for the change in position but I believe that there should be a total moratorium on any legislative action until such time as the new congressional body is seated. This would serve to reduce, if not eliminate any vindictive action by those not re-elected.
It appears that there may be action to vote on several issues that were avoided during campaigns because of their noxious nature. A responsible body would not want to see some of these items pass but a body that has "nothing to lose" really does not care about the effects of anything on the nation and/or the people of the United States.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed that the Democratic Congress does not negotiate to pass some of their more important legislative bills. It is clear that if the approps bills are punted to the next Congress, that the project adds and other policy efforts will be stripped from the bills. Even more likely, the Republicans will pass a year-long CR to allow the new Congress to focus on their bills for FY12 - Just like the Dems did to the Republicans in 2006.