In Washington, all attention right now is on the rapidly approaching midterm congressional elections and the efforts by Democrats to retain their majorities in both houses of Congress. However, regardless of whether Democrats lose control of the House of Representatives or Senate, members of Congress are expected to return to Washington on November 15th to address unfinished business in a lame duck session of Congress. And there is a lot of unfinished business: Congress still must complete work on a budget for the fiscal year 2011, which began on October 1st. In addition, Democratic leaders have promised to address expiring tax cuts that were enacted during the Bush Administration as well as ratification of a strategic arms control treaty with Russia. And if this wasn’t enough, Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) has also promised votes on legislation that (1) regulates food safety; (2) provides tax rebates for those using natural gas and electric vehicles; and (3) addresses wage discrimination.
But wait, as the commercial goes, there’s more. Pressure remains in Congress to pass measures that would address certain segments of the economy. This runs from extending tax breaks benefitting various industries, addressing Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors, and providing a one-time payment of $250 to Social Security recipients. It is not clear how many of all these measures will make it through Congress before it adjourns at the end of the year. Given the level of partisanship that we have seen in recent months and through the campaign, there is not a lot of cooperation in place on many bills. However, we do see final action likely on legislation affecting budget and economic matters, such as a multi-bill “Omnibus” bill that funds government operations for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011 (as well as individual projects requested by Members of Congress) and a tax bill that provides assistance to individuals and businesses. More importantly, we see the lame duck as a place where Congress will “set the table” for the efforts it will take in 2011. The Public Policy & Infrastructure Group remains available to advise clients how to develop a legislative strategy for the lame duck as well as the 112th Congress that will begin in January.