• Lame Duck Session Begins
  • November 22, 2014
  • Law Firm: McDonald Hopkins LLC - Cleveland Office
  • As the dust continues to settle from the mid-term elections, Congress returned to work this week to begin the lame duck session. While Congress is expected to tackle a number of issues, first and foremost, Congress must pass a spending bill - most likely some type of omnibus - given that the current funding for the government expires on December 11.

    The Senate will also begin examining the qualifications of Loretta Lynch, whom President Obama announced Saturday as his pick to be the next Attorney General. Lynch, the current U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, has so far earned praise and has been confirmed by the Senate twice before. But it is unclear how quickly her confirmation will move, and some Republicans have complained they don't believe senators who were defeated for re-election should have a chance to vote on her nomination.

    Other matters facing lawmakers include whether more money should go to address the Ebola outbreak and whether potential use of military force in the Middle East should be authorized.

    Given the impending shift in Senate control, some lawmakers-particularly Republicans-are urging that legislative efforts these last lame-duck weeks of the 113th Congress-which are not yet completely scheduled-should be limited to keeping government functioning and other must-pass legislation.

    Such items range from renewal of dozens of already-expired tax breaks to extending the soon-to-expire Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, to an Internet sales tax measure. Some of the hoped-for tax extenders would address popular items and those sought by businesses, such as tax breaks for research and development and purchases of equipment, the mortgage interest deduction, and a child-care credit.

    Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) has called for extending more than 50 such tax breaks and credits that lapsed last year through next year, to allow for more time to address a comprehensive tax-code overhaul sought by both parties. In addition, the Internal Revenue Service is prodding Congress to reach a decision on extenders before the end of the year or risk complicating next year's tax-filing season. House Republican aides say a tax-extender package during the lame duck is possible. Democrats may also seek to act on judicial picks while still in control of the Senate, which must confirm such nominations. For now, GOP opposition can still be thwarted, because Democrats changed Senate rules so that a nominee could be confirmed with a simple majority in the 100-seat chamber. Previously, it took 60 votes to get past a procedural hurdle.

    The extent of legislative action that will occur during this lame-duck period is not yet set in stone. Republicans have scheduled action in the House the week of Nov. 16 on two bills targeting the science behind Environmental Protection Agency regulations, and a third measure dealing with manufacturing.