Although a number of races stay uncalled, it seems Republicans will probably achieve management of the Home. And meaning the subsequent two months — often known as the lame-duck session — may effectively be Democrats’ final likelihood to make use of their unified management of Congress.
Past must-pass payments like funding the federal government and authorizing protection spending, Democratic lawmakers are eyeing two huge payments: laws to enshrine protections for same-sex marriage into federal regulation, and a measure to reform the way in which Congress certifies election outcomes.
Within the final 20 years, when congressional energy modified fingers, lame-duck classes have been frenetic largely as a result of they’re the ultimate alternative for a celebration to perform a few of their key priorities. In accordance with Pew, these classes have accounted for greater than 1 / 4 of Congress’s legislative output in current phrases.
Under is a rundown of some of the payments Congress has on faucet for its lame-duck session this 12 months.
Identical-sex marriage protections
The Senate is predicted to vote on same-sex marriage protections this week, Senate Majority Chief Chuck Schumer introduced on Monday.
Democrats postponed a vote on this invoice till after the midterms as a result of they believed they’d have the ability to get extra Republican votes as soon as these lawmakers have been much less nervous about alienating conservative Christian voters. Republicans stated, in flip, that they’d be extra open to contemplating the laws if it didn’t really feel prefer it was getting used for political messaging throughout the midterms.
The invoice would repeal the 1996 Protection of Marriage Act, authorized throughout President Invoice Clinton’s administration, which outlined marriage as a authorized union between a person and a lady, and would assure recognition of same-sex and interracial marriages below federal regulation. The newest model of the Respect for Marriage Act additionally consists of language supposed to deal with Republican issues about spiritual liberties.
The brand new laws is each historic and central to guaranteeing same-sex marriage protections. It turned a Democratic precedence following an opinion from Supreme Courtroom Justice Clarence Thomas, by which he floated probably revisiting Obergefell v. Hodges, the judicial resolution that established such rights in 2015. The Supreme Courtroom’s resolution to overturn Roe v. Wade has raised the chance that the panel may do the identical with different precedents.
“We’re very assured the invoice will cross, however we are going to want a bit extra time,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) instructed reporters in September. Previous to leaving for recess, three Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins, Thom Tillis, and Rob Portman — had publicly signed on to the laws, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski probably to take action, placing the invoice shy of the 60-vote threshold it could have to clear a filibuster. An individual near the negotiations, nevertheless, instructed Semafor that they count on the invoice to have sufficient votes to cross when it’s introduced up.
A handful of Republicans together with Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) had additionally beforehand stated they’d vote in opposition to the invoice as a result of they didn’t suppose these rights have been being threatened.
Electoral Depend Act reforms
There’s been a bipartisan push to reform the Electoral Depend Act, which lays out Congress’s position in counting electoral votes following a presidential election, although it’s nonetheless ready on a vote within the Senate. This invoice would replace the ECA in a bid to forestall elected officers from utilizing the method to overturn the election outcomes, like former President Donald Trump tried to do in 2021. Key reforms embody clarifying the vice chairman’s position within the counting course of as purely ceremonial and rising the edge of lawmakers it takes to problem the outcomes of an election. At present, it takes only one Senate and one Home member to object to a state’s final result to ensure that Congress to contemplate and vote on the objection.
In September, the Home handed its model of those reforms and the Senate is more likely to do the identical within the coming weeks. At this level, greater than 10 Republicans have expressed their assist for the invoice, a robust signal that it’s going to cross. As Vox’s Ben Jacobs has defined, these insurance policies aren’t sufficient to ensure that one other January 6 received’t occur, although they’ll get rid of some authorized loopholes unhealthy actors might attempt to exploit.
The Senate’s model of the invoice differs from the Home’s, nevertheless, so the decrease chamber will in all probability have to contemplate the laws once more. One distinction consists of the edge for difficult a state’s outcomes: The Home’s invoice would require one-third of lawmakers in each chambers to signal on, whereas the Senate’s would require one-fifth of lawmakers.
The Home may approve the Senate model after it’s handed, although the method may take longer if the 2 chambers search to reconcile a number of the variations within the payments.
Funding the federal government
The deadline to maintain the federal government open is now December 16, when a short-term spending invoice handed earlier this 12 months is because of expire.
Lawmakers have the choice of passing one other short-term invoice, often known as a unbroken decision, or the full-year appropriations payments that might fund completely different authorities businesses and packages. In the event that they fail to do both, the federal government would shut down, furloughing workers and considerably curbing sure companies.
Key appropriations requests embody extra support to Ukraine in addition to pandemic support to additional the distribution of vaccines and drugs. Each may see some Republican opposition, with the GOP break up on extra assist for Ukraine, and many of the celebration balking at extra cash to deal with the pandemic.
Authorizing protection spending
One other must-pass invoice that Congress has to contemplate is the Nationwide Protection Authorization Act, which establishes funding allocations for the protection division.
One problem that would come up associated to the NDAA is the doable attachment of Sen. Joe Manchin’s allowing reform invoice, which beforehand garnered opposition from Republicans and progressive Democrats.
This invoice would streamline the approval course of for fossil gasoline and clear power tasks, and assure permits for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a pure fuel mission in West Virginia, Manchin’s residence state. Progressives had pushed again on the laws due to the inclusion of the pipeline and the priority that the approval course of Manchin envisions would dilute communities’ alternatives to weigh in on these tasks. Republicans, in the meantime, felt the reforms wouldn’t expedite tasks sufficient, and in addition weren’t eager about giving Manchin a win following his assist for the Inflation Discount Act.
It’s not but clear whether or not Manchin will tweak his invoice to deal with a few of these issues, or if it should be dropped but once more after it wasn’t capable of choose up ample votes in September. But when he does wish to put it ahead once more, attempting to connect it to the NDAA could also be his finest shot to take action.
(Possibly) elevating the debt ceiling
Democrats even have the possibility to boost the debt ceiling and stave off a probably calamitous stand-off that would occur subsequent 12 months if Republicans take the Home.
Growing or suspending the debt ceiling (principally, the quantity the US is ready to borrow) is a routine motion Congress has to take as a result of if it doesn’t, the US may default on its payments and destabilize the nation’s economic system. Regardless of that, it’s a second Republicans have indicated that they’ll use for leverage to safe cuts to funding for social packages and clear power initiatives.
Democrats may stop this from taking place by approving a large enhance whereas they nonetheless management each the Home and the Senate this 12 months, although the US is just not projected to hit the debt ceiling till someday in 2023.
Due to that timing, in addition to Congress’s packed schedule, it’s not clear if they’ll get to that precedence earlier than subsequent 12 months.
Current lame geese have been fairly productive
Lame-duck classes have been as soon as fairly sporadic affairs, although they’ve turn into rather more frequent, and productive, lately.
Since 2000, particularly, a good chunk of Congress’s output has really taken place throughout lame-duck classes, per Pew. Over the past Congress, practically 44 p.c of what it handed — together with a serious coronavirus aid bundle — was authorized throughout this session.
Different lively lame-duck classes embody 2010, when Democrats misplaced management of the Home, and handed a number of main payments earlier than they handed it over to Republicans. They repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Inform” and handed a nuclear arms discount treaty with Russia and an extension of tax cuts established throughout the Bush administration, in accordance with the Atlantic. Previous to the shift in congressional energy in 2019, Republicans additionally used the lame-duck session to approve the First Step Act, a groundbreaking felony justice reform invoice, in addition to a reauthorization of the farm invoice, which authorizes spending for Agriculture Division packages.
This 12 months is poised to be one other busy lame-duck session, significantly as Democrats think about the looming change in Home management that could possibly be on the horizon.