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So Many Issues, So Little Time for Lame Duck Session

November 9, 2012

Donna Crews

On Tuesday, November 13 the House and Senate will convene for the "lame duck" session of the 112th Congress, which will run through the end of December. The list of legislative priorities far outweighs the six-week timeframe that Members of Congress have to address those issues. The timeframe offers less than 20 possible legislative days working 4 day weeks each week except Thanksgiving and Christmas week.

The issues that must be addressed prior to New Year's are:

  1. Sequestration with a January 2 start date without change in legislation.
  2. Expiration of the Bush era tax cuts December 31 without an extension
  3. Expiration of long-term unemployment insurance benefits December 31
  4. Expiration of payroll and alternative minimum tax credits (AMT) December 31
  5. Decrease in the payment amount to doctors who care for Medicare patients (SGR)
  6. Emergency appropriations package for FEMA in light of Hurricane Sandy
  7. Various reauthorizations including the Farm Bill (which expired 9/30/12). This bill includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Other issues that will need resolution include:

  1. Possible increase in the debt limit by February
  2. Completion of Fiscal Year 2013 appropriations prior to March 27, 2013

Each one of these issues could take the complete lame duck session to debate and pass. It is expected that the Congress will come up with a legislative fix to delay or punt the first year of the $1.2 trillion sequestration plan and stop the 8.2 % cuts to non-defense discretionary. Neither Democrats nor Republicans want sequestration. When passed into law as part of the Budget Control Act in 2011, sequestration was never intended to take effect. It was included as an enforcement mechanism to encourage the bipartisan Joint Committee to come to agreement a year ago. Since that did not occur Congress and the White House must determine a way to avert the devastating impact of these possible cuts. Thus far the only budget savings have been $1.5 trillion in cuts to discretionary programs.


Now that the election is over Members of Congress may be able to debate and discuss a balanced compromise to this situation that includes revenue in addition to cuts. Thus far, Republican Members have been adamant about only including cuts to programs and the Democrats and the President have explained another deal will not be on the table without a balanced approach that includes revenue.

It is expected that President Obama will unveil his "Grand Bargain" plan to address sequestration next week. His plan likely will be based closely on his FY 2013 budget proposal, which adverted sequestration with revenue increases as well as defense and non-defense discretionary cuts. The President will give a preview of his thinking in a speech scheduled for 1 p.m. EST today (Friday, November 9). It has been reported that the bipartisan Senate "Gang of Eight," the group of Senators charged with creating a deficit-reduction deal, has been meeting for some time but does not yet have a viable plan to avert sequestration.

AIDS United believes the most likely way forward will be a date change to the sequester of six months to a year that includes instructions for relevant committees to make changes in the tax code and determine spending cut targets. On Wednesday, November 7th, Speaker John Boehner held a press conference where he stated that Republicans are willing to discuss revenue and they await the President's "leadership" on the fiscal concerns facing the nation.

It is not clear how much more of the lame duck issues will be resolved prior to adjournment. Those issues not addressed will have to be addressed by the 113th Congress, which convenes January 3, 2013.

Donna Crews is the director of government affairs at AIDS United.

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This article was provided by AIDS United. Visit AIDS United's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
See Also
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