Congress has returned with an agenda to wrap up business for the 114thCongress during the “lame duck” session and with Leadership plans to build the platform for reforms on key issues for the 115th Congress. In addition, the House and Senate will begin electing new Leadership for the 115thCongress this week.
Congress’ top priority in this session will be to keep most of the government funded beyond Dec. 9, when a 10-week continuing resolution (CR) expires. Given the election results, it is possible that fiscal year (FY) 2017 funding decisions will be pushed into some point next year, when Republicans will control both chambers of Congress and the White House. This would provide greater leverage for Republicans to cut non-defense discretionary spending (which funds many disability-related programs) and increase defense spending for the remainder of FY 2017. Eleven of the twelve FY 2017 spending bills have yet to be enacted (only Military Construction and Veterans Affairs programs received full-year funding). The House will take its first votes tonight, followed by the Senate tomorrow night. Congress is tentatively scheduled to work through Dec. 16, with one week off for Thanksgiving. Click here to see line item funding levels for priority disability programs for FY 2016.
Leadership could decide to extend the funding for another short period of months to give the new Trump Administration time to work with the Congress to make major changes to key programs such as the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) or the Medicaid program.
Major changes to the Affordable Care Act and the basic structure of the Medicaid program are high priorities of the incoming Trump Administration and the House and Senate Republican Majorities. Democratic leaders have already engaged in discussions with President-elect Trump and others to determine where there may be common ground. Much remains to be seen.