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November 10, 2014

U.S. Congress Returns For Lame Duck Session – What’s On The Agenda?

Members of the 113th Congress will return to Washington this Wednesday, Nov. 12, to finish up their work before the 114th Congress convenes in January. At the top of lawmakers’ agenda is a bill that will provide funding for the federal government for the rest of fiscal year 2015. (Members passed a short-term funding bill before they left in September for their pre-election recess.) Leaders in both parties have pledged they will pass this bill quickly, avoiding a government shutdown when the current funding bill expires in mid-December. 

Congress must also deal with a package of tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013. While the U.S. House had attempted to extend many of these provisions, which include the research and development tax credit, bonus depreciation and several provisions concerning S corps, permanently – and may continue to push for permanency in the lame duck session – we ultimately expect lawmakers to pass a bill that would extend these provisions for 2014 and perhaps 2015. 

Next, according to the Capitol Hill newspaper Politico, the House will take up several bills aimed at reining in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rulemaking. These include:

  • H.R. 4012, the Secret Science Reform Act, which would require EPA to make public the data it uses to write regulations.
  • H.R. 1422, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act, which alters the selection process for EPA's science advisory panel.
  • H.R. 4795, the Promoting New Manufacturing Act, which is aimed at reducing delays and increasing transparency in EPA's process for Clean Air Act preconstruction permits for new or modified stationary sources.

Since the Senate will still be under Democratic control when it returns this week, it is unlikely the upper chamber will consider these bills, which means, even if they pass the House during the lame duck session, they will have to be reintroduced and taken up again in the 114th Congress. 

Finally, last Friday, President Barack Obama added another item to Congress’s to-do list: confirmation of Loretta Lynch to be U.S. Attorney General. While Democrats are hoping for quick confirmation for Lynch in the Senate while Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is still majority leader, several Republican senators have already said they believe nomination hearings shouldn’t take place until the members of the new Congress take their seats in January.