What to Expect During the Lame Duck
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Posted by: Lindsey Johnson
It’s a strange environment on
Capitol Hill when members and staff return to work immediately following the
Nov. 2 elections. Several Senators and Representatives will have lost their
seats, returning to the Hill to wait out the Lame Duck period and begin the
process of closing up their D.C. offices. Staffers will initiate the hunt for
new jobs. But despite the impending changeover, it’s expected that work must
continue. And even with the soon-to-be changing of the political guard, the
atmosphere on the floor typically remains collegial.
For House and Senate leadership,
discussions about the post-election agenda began as soon as Congress left town
for the final six weeks on the campaign trail. Planning gives staff something
to do, but it also gives members information to reassure constituents back home
that there’s still time to get things done before year’s end.
Regardless of rhetoric from both
parties during the election, nothing will happen on major initiatives like tax
reform or immigration before 2015; there’s simply not enough time. These issues
require a fresh Congress. History shows that the typical work product of the
Lame Duck falls neatly into two categories: The "necessary” and the "noncontroversial.”
Atop the "necessary” list sits that task which Congress typically must tackle
first: Spending. At present, most of the federal government is operating on
autopilot towards a "continuing resolution.” It’s quite possible that the Lame
Duck session simply extends these current spending levels through next year. The
more likely outcome — and the current plans among Hill staff — will be an
"omnibus” spending bill, combining all annual spending measures that were never
addressed during the year.
Lame Duck or not, big spending
bills almost always contain their share of pork; but with the budget agreement
in place for the 2015 fiscal year, fixed caps on total spending will limit damage
to your pocketbooks. Both political parties have incentives to get the work
done as cleanly as possible.
The intense gridlock of the past
year suggests that "noncontroversial” measures would be few and far between;
however, there are a couple Congress may consider next year. Example: Congress
may extend a collection of tax measures ranging from tax credits for the
renewable fuel subsidy to a supplemental appropriation for our fight against
In the end, it’s not much of a
list. December should be the lamest Lame Duck session in many years.