Post-Election Session Begins; Agenda in the Works

Congress returns this week to begin its post-election session of Congress (called the lame duck session). Issues that are expected to take priority are spending bills to fund the government after the current continuing resolution expires on December 11, including additional funding to address Ebola outbreak, and measures to combat the Islamic group ISL, and confirmation of the next Attorney General.   Given the impending shift in Senate control, some members of Congress are urging that the session be limited to keeping government functioning and other must-pass legislation.   Other lawmakers and some outside interests are pushing to get more things done, including renewal of dozens of already-expired tax breaks. Disability advocates meanwhile are working to have Congress pass the ABLE Act and for the Senate to ratify the U.N Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) during the lame duck session.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) will not seek a sixth term in 2014

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced last week that he will not seek re-election in 2014, after more than 40 years in Congress. Senator Harkin has been a longtime friend to The Arc and the disability community as a whole.

Harkin currently serves as Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and as Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. Through these dual roles he has had great influence on the critical health, education, employment and disability programs that support people with disabilities. He played a key role in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 and has been a tireless advocate for its implementation.

The Arc deeply appreciates Senator Harkin’s strong leadership and advocacy on disability and health issues.

113th Congress sworn in; Nearly 100 new members take office

The 113th Congress (2013-2014) convened on Thursday with eighty-two freshmen lawmakers in the House and twelve in the Senate. Despite modest gains by Democrats, party breakdown will remain mostly unchanged. Democrats will still control the Senate, 55 to 45, and Republicans will still have a majority in the House of Representatives, 233 to 200 (with two vacancies for seats which were held by Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) and Tim Scott (R-SC)).  The new Congress is more diverse, with women now comprising 20 percent of the Senate and nearly 18 percent of the House.

The House of Representatives re-elected Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker of the House. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) returns as House Minority Leader. The Senate leadership remains unchanged, with Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) as Majority Leader and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as Minority Leader. A number of important new Senate Committee chairs were also announced. Of particular interest to the disability community are Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Budget Committee, and Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chair of the Appropriations Committee. Other assignments to committees that are important to the disability community will be finalized in the near future.

To see the list of new members of Congress, see:
To see the list of members who have not returned from the last Congress, see:

Congressional Schedule

This week, the House and Senate will both be in session.   Private negotiations between the House and Senate leadership and President Obama began two weeks ago on how to deal with the expiring tax cuts and pending across-the-board automatic spending cuts and other policies commonly called the “fiscal cliff”. The fiscal cliff issue is expected to dominate the lame duck session of Congress. The target date for adjournment is December 14th, though many expect that Congress may stay in session even longer to try and reach agreement on these difficult issues.