WASHINGTON – Congress returns to Capitol Hill and a long list of things to do next week, after a six-week midterm election break that saw Democrats exceed expectations and Republicans barely close to a majority in the United States House.
On the agenda are same-sex marriage legislation, a huge defense bill, changes to how presidential electoral votes are counted and more.
The lame session, a brief period between the election and the convening of the new Congress in January, is usually marked by lawmakers doing the bare minimum or pushing through dozens of bills in a bid to finish the job they have. left until the end. hoping to secure party line priorities for a turbulent few weeks.
This year’s lame duck will probably be the last. Democrats will seek to wrap up many must-have bills before heading home for the December recess. And with control of the US House and US Senate undecided on Friday afternoon, the next few weeks could become a bit of a rollercoaster.
Here are the top five things to address in the final legislative weeks of the 117th Congress:
Pay the bills : Congress approved a government short-term funding bill in September, giving themselves until December 16 to reach bipartisan, bicameral agreement on total spending for the fiscal year that began October 1 and to draft the dozen annual appropriation bills.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday that the Biden administration would like this package to include more funding to help communities recover from natural disasters, additional funds to fight COVID -19 and more aid to help Ukraine defend against Russia.
If Congress can’t reach agreement on spending bills for the full year, it can pass another short-term funding bill next year.
Defense Authorization: Lawmakers would like to pass the annual defense policy bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, during the lame session.
While the legislation isn’t essential to funding the Pentagon (it’s the Defense Appropriations Bill in the article above), the NDAA sets sweeping policy for the US Department of Defense. Congress has completed the measure for the past 61 years, a streak no political party wants to break.
A possible snag will be behind-the-scenes discussions about whether to attach an energy permit reform bill that Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III tried to get to President Joe Biden’s office in September.
Jean-Pierre said Thursday that the White House believes it should be incorporated into the defense policy bill, although lawmakers have expressed some skepticism.
Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said end of september she does not want a clearance reform bill added to the defense policy bill, saying the focus should remain on defence-related amendments.
“So putting one that’s irrelevant on the NDAA would probably create heartache,” Ernst said.
Electoral count process: The U.S. House and a key U.S. Senate panel both approved the voter count law overhaul in September, though the two chambers must settle their differences before a bill can go to office. of Biden.
US House lawmakers voted 229-203 approve an invoice it would increase the number of members needed to oppose certification of a state‘s electoral votes for president and clarify the vice president’s role in the process is purely ceremonial.
The Senate bill is somewhat similar, though it has broader bipartisan support than the House version, which garnered the support of only nine Republicans.
The version approved by the Committee on Rules and Administration of the United States Senate would also strengthen the ceremonial role of the vice president and increase the number of members of Congress needed to oppose a state’s Electoral College votes.
The current standard is one member of the House and one senator. The Senate bill would increase that number to one-fifth of both chambers, while the House version proposes increasing it to at least one-third of both chambers.
Gay Marriage Bill: The United States House of Representatives voted 267 to 157 in July submit an invoice it would ensure recognition of same-sex marriages, should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the 2015 opinion of Obergefell v. Hodges who legalized same-sex marriages nationwide.
Since then, the bill has been stalled in the US Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was on track to talk about it before the midterm elections, but withheld on request of Sens. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin; Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine; Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio; Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona; and Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina.
“We are confident that when our legislation comes to the Senate for a vote, we will have the bipartisan support to pass the bill,” they wrote in a September letter explaining the delay.
The bill also protects interracial marriages in the event the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the 1967 Loving v. Virginia which struck down state laws making it illegal for interracial couples to marry.
Leadership Elections: A tried and true tradition of every lame session is to elect, or more often re-elect, the leaders of the United States House and United States Senate.
The biggest question mark on Capitol Hill remains whether Speaker Nancy Pelosi will step down as the top House Democrat, paving the way for another lawmaker to take over that position.
Pelosi agreed in the final round of leadership elections that this would be her last term in the role, although an attack on her husband earlier this month inside their San Francisco home could have changed her calculations about his political future.
“I have to say that my decision will be affected by what’s happened in the last week or two,” she said on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” this week when asked if she had taken the final decision to withdraw or stay.
House Republicans were on track to elect California Rep. Kevin McCarthy as their next speaker and Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise as their leader next week, but it’s unclear if that could change given the indecisive nature of the midterm elections.
Indiana Rep. Jim Banks and Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer are vying for the role of Republican whip — a job that could be particularly demanding if the GOP continues down the path of a particularly narrow majority. Whoever wins this title will be responsible for ensuring that at least 218 party members stay in line on what will amount to hundreds of votes over two years, an unenviable task.
In the US Senate, the party leadership is unlikely to change.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer is expected to continue as Democratic leader with Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin as whip. Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell will likely remain as Republican leader with South Dakota Sen. John Thune as whip.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, however, has called for his party’s election to be postponed next week, Tweeter Friday that, “We must first make sure those who want to lead us are genuinely committed to fighting for the priorities and values of working Americans (of all backgrounds) that have given us great victories in states like #Florida .”