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September 28, 2015

How Will The House Speaker’s Resignation Affect The Fall Congressional Calendar?

As readers are well aware, last Friday U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced he would resign from Congress effective Oct. 30. While news analysis after the announcement also reported it’s likely the U.S. House and Senate will manage this week to pass a short-term appropriations resolution to keep the federal government funded after the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, what is less certain is how the Speaker’s announcement will affect the broader legislative calendar for the fall. (It is also unclear at this writing when the House Republican Conference will hold votes to elect its new leadership, or when Congress will vote to elect a new Speaker.) 

Members of Congress have several must-pass pieces of legislation to contend with between today and the end of the year, including a full-year appropriations bill, an increase to the federal debt limit and a tax extenders bill. 

While work will continue on these bills, some analysts have speculated that Speaker Boehner might use the days between leadership elections and his formal retirement to focus on even more contentious, though vital, long-term reform like immigration reform. Congressional Quarterly (subscription required) said, “The immediate question is whether Boehner uses, or can use, his final weeks to push through legislation over the objections of a faction of his party, as he appears willing to do with the CR [continuing resolution]. Within limits, he could use his final weeks to spare his successor some headaches by getting legislation done now. No longer worried about the speakership, he could for example probably find the votes to push through an ambitious highway bill … before the current authorization expires Oct. 29. He could also push through reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, defying conservatives who blocked renewal at the end of June.” 

Other analysts have said the Speaker’s retirement makes it less likely Congress will pass long-term reforms anytime soon.