Congress Returns with a Lengthy To-Do List

November 12, 2014

pic-capitolThe post-election session begins on Wednesday, Nov. 12 and the current House and Senate leadership are busy assessing what they can and cannot accomplish during the brief lame duck before the new Republican leadership takes over in the Senate in 2015.

Despite the compressed session, lawmakers will have a lot to get done—from keeping the government from being shut down again and increasing funding against Ebola and ISIS, to vetting the next Attorney General  as well as other executive branch and judicial nominations while also battling with President Barack Obama over immigration. For NSBA the most pressing issue facing Congress when they return is legislation addressing the future of the research and experimentation tax credit, bonus depreciation, and the dozens of other temporary tax deductions, credits and incentives that expired at the end of 2013.

With the Dec. 11 deadline fast approaching, Congress will be looking to pass a trillion-dollar omnibus spending bill to keep the federal government open. Now that Republicans will control both chambers come January, some in the party are calling for a short-term version that would allow the incoming Senate Republican majority to pass its own budget early next year. Others also want an amendment to the bill that would block President Obama’s expected move to halt the deportations of potentially millions of undocumented workers.

However, House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) and his Senate counterpart, Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) both are hoping to pass a clean bill that will last  through next September, and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he will oppose any standoff that could result in a government shutdown.

Over the summer, Obama opted to delay until after the midterm elections an executive order to provide deportation relief and work authorization to millions of undocumented workers in the U.S. With the elections over, the president has said he plans to move forward on his plan before the end of the year. By ignoring warnings from Republican leaders not to take a unilateral approach, President Obama could potentially hurt whatever bipartisan efforts he tries to pass—such as new international trade agreements—with a Republican Congress in his final two years in office. Whatever Obama chooses to do in the short term, however, Congress will ultimately have to decide whether to pass legislation to deal with permanent immigration reform.

Also during the lame duck, lawmakers will have to come to a decision on the $50 billion in expired tax breaks—known as tax extenders—that has been in limbo since their expiration last December. These 55 tax credits will have to be reinstated by the end of 2014 in order to be part of the current year’s tax laws. Renewing all of the extenders that expired on Dec. 31, 2013, for one year would cost about $54 billion in total, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The Senate’s two-year package of 51 breaks would cost $84.1 billion, spread over 10 years.

On Wednesday, NSBA sent a letter to House and Senate leaders urging them to quickly enact legislation to extend the temporary business tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013 so that individuals and business can better plan for the future.

During the post-election session, lawmakers also will consider Obama’s request of $5.6 billion to fight the Islamic State terrorist army, including $1.6 billion associated with a U.S. military buildup to train and equip Iraqi forces. He has also asked Congress to approve an additional $6.18 billion in emergency spending to combat the Ebola virus.

Finally, the House and Senate will hold their leadership elections on Thursday. Both parties expect that their top officials will keep their jobs, but there will be shifting on committees, along with new committee chairs.

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