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The 111th Congress’ Last Breath
Looking toward the 112th Congress and the future
As widely speculated, Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, picking up 61 seats, for a majority of 240-189. As of this writing, six House races still have not yet been decided as recounts persist. Republicans also made gains in the Senate, picking up six Senate seats, to reduce the Democratic majority to 53-47.
With Republican House control, there will be a number of new faces in Congress who will focus on spending reductions, banning earmarks, repealing parts of enacted policy such as healthcare, and slowing the growth of government. There is talk of reducing the size of committees, and some committee chairmanships remain up for grabs. However, the policy direction and philosophy of the House will change.
The House Republican Conference pledges in their “Promise to America” to restore limited, constitutional government. While this could mean a repeal/de-funding of previously enacted policies from the 111th Congress, finding legislative success in the 112th Congress means offering policy alternatives that will not require government spending and reduce government involvement in markets and regulation, and finding sensible, bipartisan solutions in the Senate.
With a narrowed majority for Senate Democrats and ideologically-driven new Senate Republicans, a case for legislative gridlock can be made.
Potential Lame Duck issues
Given the time constraints before Christmas (about 4.5 weeks for votes) and the hours required to move through procedural hurdles in the Senate, it could be likely that the Senate only will be able to address a continuing resolution to keep the government funded (until early-2011), a compromise on extending pieces of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts that expire at year’s end, and possibly a “delay” of the Medicare doctor’s reimbursement (for up to 13 months).
The Senate Republicans also may begin forcing votes on targeted spending cuts, focusing on reducing program-level discretionary spending. These votes also may target defunding or not funding aspects of the healthcare law. These targeted efforts are likely to continue in the 112th Congress.
Expiring tax cuts
The White House appears open to considering a full extension of all the soon-to-expire 2001 and 2003 tax cuts during the Lame Duck session. Congressional Republicans want to see all the tax cuts extended, and the White House and Democrats want to ensure that at least the middle income (under $250,000) cuts are extended.
Republicans and some Democrats have discussed a one- or two-year extension of all the tax cuts as a favored option.
Additional conversation since the elections has Democrats discussing a middle class cutoff line of $500,000 or $1 million. The middle class cuts could be extended permanently, while anything over the threshold would only be extended short-term (one to two years).
The AMT and estate tax may not be addressed, forcing reform or retroactive extension in the 112th Congress.
“Doc” fix (Medicare reimbursements)
112th Congress possible legislative issues
The Senate Republicans likely will force votes to reduce program-level spending in a number of discretionary domestic programs.
“Repeal-and-Replace” efforts on the enacted healthcare reform likely will turn into targeted efforts to prevent spending on certain aspects of the law.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 November 2010 22:01|