What can lame-duck Congress get done? Seven items on to-do list.
The lame-duck Congress returns to session Monday with a laundry list of things to do. Avoiding a government shutdown is top on the list. But there are other important items, too.
The White House and a lame-duck Congress are locked in a struggle to resolve key issues of taxation and spending, with funding for federal agencies and checks for the long-term unemployed set to halt this week if lawmakers fail to take action.Skip to next paragraph
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Typically, the deadlines at the end of a Congress help drive compromise. But with Republicans set to control the House in the new Congress – and to increase their minority in the Senate – there is incentive to punt all but the most urgent items into 2011.
At the top of the "most urgent" list is funding for fiscal year 2011, which expires on Friday. Congress has completed none of the annual spending bills for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1. In years past, the way out has been to pass a single, vast spending bill that covers all federal agencies and is riddled with earmarks.
But candidates with tea party links have criticized that process being slipshod, resulting in no real scrutiny of what is in the budget. This year, GOP leaders are under pressure from the robust incoming class to hold the line on earmarks and spending, and so far they are resisting the so-called "omnibus bill" solution in favor of completing work in a new Congress.
Fiscal responsibility will continue to be an issue this week as the president’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform prepares to release its recommendations on Wednesday. President Obama announced Monday that he is proposing a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers – a move expected to save $5 billion through 2012.
House Republicans, caught by surprise by the announcement, applauded the move, which is included in the GOP Pledge to America, released in September. “Republicans and Democrats don’t have to wait until January to cut spending and stop all the tax hikes. We can – and should – start right now,” said House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio.
Other issues at the top of Congress's agenda include: