What’s Going to Happen in the Lame Duck Congress?

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What’s Going to Happen in the Lame Duck Congress?

Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate return this week for a “lame duck” session of Congress. This session, held after the election but before newly-elected members are sworn in, has a number of important issues to deal with. With Donald Trump being elected president, however, Republicans are likely to make efforts to ensure that any high-profile controversies are moved into next year. They would much rather deal with President Trump in 2017 than with President Obama in the waning days of 2016.


Here are some areas where we could see movement before Congress adjourns in December:


Appropriations: A short-term spending measure to keep the government funded expires on December 9. If Congress and the president don’t agree on a spending plan by then, the government will partially shut down. Congress has two options: pass an omnibus spending bill that will fund the government through the end of this fiscal year, or pass a short-term continuing resolution that funds the government through the beginning of President Trump’s term. There are significant differences between the spending plan favored by Congress and the one favored by President Obama, especially over defense funding. These differences are likely to go away under President Trump, so expect Congress to pass a short-term spending measure and then make a longer-term deal with the new president.


Defense: legislation that authorizes spending on our nation’s defense is being held up by a provision that would exempt defense contractors from Obama Administration anti-discrimination rules. Republicans in Congress have inserted language in the bill that they say protects the religious freedom of contractors when it comes to dealing with gay and lesbian individuals. If Congress does not remove this language, it could lead to a presidential veto of the bill.


Iran: the Iran Sanctions Act expires at the end of this year. The House of Representatives has a bipartisan bill that would renew the sanctions for 10 years. Some Republicans in the Senate want a tougher measure.


Medical: there is bipartisan support for legislation that would remove federal roadblocks to approval of new drugs and medical treatment. This could be a rare area of agreement in the lame duck between Congress and the White House.


Supreme Court: Senate Republicans have refused to hold hearings or a vote on President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland. With Trump’s election, there is no chance that they will allow Garland’s confirmation in the lame duck session. President Trump will name his own nominee to fill this seat once he takes office in January.


Trans-Pacific Partnership: Trump never hesitated to express his disdain for this and other trade agreements. The Senate will not consider this trade accord during the lame duck session.


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