Congress returns to work this week after an October hiatus in advance of the elections. With the prospect of a Republican controlled Senate and a stronger House majority in 2015, GOP leaders must decide how far to go and how much to do during the lame duck session. There is really only one thing that’s a must-do: passing some sort of continuing resolution that will fund the government into next year.
Appropriation committees in the House and Senate are working on a spending bill that funds the government through the end of fiscal 2015 on September 30th. The funding levels in that bill are based on the Ryan-Murray budget plan adopted earlier this year. But, some conservative members fear the GOP will lose leverage against President Obama by passing longer-term funding, especially if the President should make good on his vow to grant some sort of relief to illegal immigrants, or to insist on confirmation hearings for Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.
A story in this morning’s Wall Street Journal summarizes the thinking of congressional leadership:
Top Republicans in both chambers see advantages to extending the spending bill through September, the final stretch of a two-year bipartisan budget deal setting the overall spending level, according to lawmakers and GOP aides. That would enable the GOP to start the new Congress by focusing on its own priorities, such as approving the Keystone XL pipeline and forging changes to the Affordable Care Act.
Georgia’s Seventh District Congressman Rob Woodall is one of those who thinks a resolution providing funding through the end of the fiscal year would be a better choice:
Rep. Rob Woodall (R., Ga.), currently head of the conservative Republican Study Committee, agreed that it would be better to complete work on a fiscal 2015 spending bill in the lame-duck session, because the next Congress will have only a short window before the 2016 presidential campaign begins to affect congressional negotiations.
“Maybe we’ll get eight months before presidential politics permeate action—I don’t want to waste those eight months working on last year’s business,” Mr. Woodall said.
Meanwhile, Senator Johnny Isakson, while advocating for a list of issues the new Congress should address next year, warned the AJC’s Kyle Wingfield of what might happen should the President pursue a path of executive amnesty:
If, as is rumored, Obama tries to use an executive order to enact amnesty for illegal immigrants, Isakson said Republicans should use the power of the purse to de-fund such efforts until the next election comes.
“If (Obama) thought there was a big tidal wave” on Tuesday, Isakson said, “if he starts something like that, the tidal wave will continue.”
Get out the popcorn. Tea Party interests are watching closely to see what happens during the lame duck. The actions lawmakers and the President take during the closing weeks of 2014 will have a big effect on what happens when Congress convenes in January, 2015.