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November 28, 2022

What to expect in Washington (November 28)

The House and Senate return from the Thanksgiving break for the final stretch of the lame-duck session with much unsettled, including an approach to extending government funding beyond December 16. There have been negotiations on an omnibus appropriations measure to extend funding through the duration of the fiscal year ending September 30, 2023, which could possibly include tax, retirement, and health items, but a lack of progress thus far increases the chances that a continuing resolution (CR) until December 23, or even into next year, will be required.

Punchbowl said November 23 that with no bipartisan agreement on a topline figure for overall spending, "Democrats are quietly drafting bills they hope could attract bipartisan support" and "will include GOP and Democratic priorities, as well as earmarks sought by members and senators in both parties." With the December 16 deadline looming, "another stopgap measure to avoid a shutdown seems very likely at this point" and "this whole process could drag out until the next Congress," the story said. A report this morning said a one-week CR might make sense if an omnibus is close at hand, requiring topline spending numbers and policy riders to be decided, and noted there may be an aversion to an omnibus from conservatives.

Roll Call reported November 23: "The decision to proceed on their own without GOP support … underscored the growing frustration over omnibus negotiations for the current fiscal year that stalled for months in a partisan standoff over spending levels for defense and nondefense programs. The talks were further strained in recent weeks by the uncertainty over the midterm elections."

Politico this morning noted that the potential for conservatives to use a government shutdown in 2023 to try to force policy concessions could prompt the quick action needed for an omnibus, as could the retirements of the top two Senate appropriators (Senators Leahy, D-VT, and Shelby, R-AL). "All eyes this week will be on Senate Republicans — and especially GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, who will have to decide whether to help put up the 10 needed GOP votes to clear a 2023 omnibus," the report said.

A November 27 Wall Street Journal (WSJ) story on the lame-duck session discussed potential action on:

  • government funding (not mentioned, but could include tax, retirement, and health items)
  • the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, "a bill with hundreds of proposals that would give raises to U.S. military service members and Defense Department workers and pay for new aircraft, ships and vehicles for combat, while funding newer technologies"
  • the debt ceiling
  • the Respect for Marriage Act
  • a resolution on railroad unions that have threatened to strike
  • the Electoral Count Act, which would change how Congress deals with presidential-election disputes
  • energy permitting reform

Regarding the last item, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) said in a Boston Globe op-ed that "addressing the nation's failing regulatory infrastructure" is necessary to realize the potential of the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and accelerate "the urgent shift to clean energy demanded by the climate crisis." He said while proposals have prompted fighting between fossil fuel interests and environmentalists, "the White House has signaled it wants permitting reform taken up during Congress's lame duck session, [and] there is an opportunity for all sides to work together to craft a more effective bill … We need to imagine and build consensus around reforms that lead to quicker, better decisions."

The first order of business for the Senate is a cloture vote on Senator Tammy Baldwin's (D-WI) Respect for Marriage Act substitute amendment at 5:30 p.m. today, November 28. The House isn't in until Tuesday, with votes postponed until 6:30 p.m. Suspension votes this week include H.R. 8876, the Jackie Walorski Maternal and Child Home Visiting Reauthorization Act of 2022, as amended.

Tax — If a deal can be reached on a government funding bill, inclusion of a tax package that can include business tax provisions — addressing the IRC Sections 174 R&D and 163(j) interest deduction TCJA cliffs, tax extenders, and other items — could come down to whether the parties can agree to do something to expand the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which Democrats insist upon. Republicans say the 2021 expansion, which provided for monthly checks to some taxpayers, was too expensive to revive.

A story on the CTC in the November 26 New York Times said, "that temporary program — technically, a tax-credit expansion but more plainly a series of monthly checks to most families with children" — was a "guaranteed income in a country long resistant to one." The report said the Republican-authored TCJA "elevated the child tax credit by doubling its value and extending it to high-income families while keeping earnings requirements that denied the poorest third of children the full benefit" and "Democrats saw inequity in a children's policy that excluded children who most needed help." However, "last year, Mr. Biden's lengthy attempt to continue the payments failed to persuade Senator Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat who criticized the program's costs and said aid should be limited to parents who work."

Health — A telehealth story in the November 26 WSJ said, "Health startups and medical associations are lobbying for permanent permission to prescribe controlled substances remotely, part of a broader debate over the future of telehealth services that boomed during the pandemic … To maintain pandemic-era telehealth practices, more than 100 groups asked the Drug Enforcement Administration this month to create a registry of providers allowed to prescribe drugs online." It said the DEA submitted two potential regulations to the White House Office of Management and Budget, including one to create such a registry.

Leadership — The Senate Democratic leadership slate is the least-settled, at least publicly, with House and Senate Republicans having chosen leaders and House Democrats making some announcements about succession plans. Current HELP Committee Chair and third-ranking Senate Democrat Patty Murray (D-WA) is opting out of a leadership position in the next Congress and is set to become president pro tempore — third in line to the presidency — and Appropriations Committee Chair. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) is expected to remain Whip. Politico reported that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is looking to eliminate the assistant leader position currently held by Senator Murray. "Schumer proposes that the next position is the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, currently helmed by [Debbie] Stabenow (D-Mich.), followed by the chair of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, a position currently held by [Amy] Klobuchar (D-Minn.)." Democrats are set discuss the changes during a caucus meeting November 29.

An analysis in the Sunday Washington Post about challenges to Democrats' ability to reach consensus after the exit of the current House leadership team said: Reps. "Hoyer and Clyburn had a private discussion about a month before the midterm election about their futures. Each decided, individually, that the time was right to allow the next generation of Democratic leaders — Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), Katherine M. Clark (Mass.) and Pete Aguilar (Calif.) — to take the reins, particularly as they expected Republicans to win the majority. 'We agreed this was a good time for us. I think if we'd been in the majority, we may have made another judgment, but it wasn't another time,' Hoyer said during a 40-minute telephone interview, as he prepared for a Thanksgiving weekend with family at his home in St. Mary's County."

A November 25 NYT story on potential House committee chairs in the next Congress said regarding the three-man Ways & Means chairmanship race:

  • "Representative Jason Smith of Missouri, the top Republican on the Budget Committee, is seeking to jump to his party's top spot on the Ways and Means Committee, where he could play a more prominent role in the debate over how to handle the looming insolvency of programs like Social Security and Medicare. Mr. Smith has vowed to lead oversight of the Internal Revenue Service and craft tax and trade legislation that strengthens the United States' position against China
  • "Representative Vern Buchanan of Florida has also made clear he wants the post, having led several subcommittees and demonstrated a prolific fund-raising ability on behalf of the House Republican campaign arm. Mr. Buchanan has stressed his experience as a business owner and has championed making the 2017 Republican tax law permanent.
  • "Representative Adrian Smith of Nebraska is also running for the position, highlighting his policy credentials and the work he has done on the committee since 2010. He has also been involved in carrying out a bipartisan trade agreement with Mexico and Canada."

Punchbowl reported November 23: "Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), a contender to be the next House Ways and Means Committee chair, is now the top contributor to the NRCC among Republican lawmakers, according to internal party data. Buchanan has given and raised $4,009,631. In second place: Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.), also a candidate for the Ways and Means gavel, has given and raised $3,003,205. Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) is also in the running but isn't nearly as big of a donor to the NRCC."


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Washington Council Ernst & Young
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