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The Case for a Robust Lame Duck Session of Congress

This is the time of year that everyone in Washington, DC, is scrambling to determine what will get done by the holidays and what will get punted until the next Congress. Of course, with a new (albeit narrow) majority in the House of Representatives starting in January, scenario planning is a bit different than it would’ve been if Democrats had maintained their control next year. Given the change in majority, new leadership on both sides of the aisle in the House, and the narrow majorities in both the House and the Senate, this lame duck session is likely to be very productive over the coming weeks to avoid legislative pain next year.

While there continues to be hurdles to advancing key legislative initiatives with deadlines this year – the Fiscal Year 2023 omnibus spending package, the National Defense Authorization Act, and tax extenders – the opportunity cost of waiting until next year is significant. Negotiations are easiest after an election without the political risk and the spotlight that comes with election cycle legislative initiatives. Working to avoid a government shutdown, default on the national debt, or a plethora of other traumatic and politically sensitive consequences, will only become more complicated next year – especially as the long line of presidential candidates will use the early months of 2023 to announce their candidacy for the 2024 election.

Not surprisingly, there are some late-stage problems with many of the end-of-year bills that need to get done. This is equally solvable and predictable should leaders from both sides of the political aisle and both sides of the Capitol work to pull these across the finish line.

Completing business for the year (especially around spending and the NDAA) will benefit both parties – Democrats will get one last round of these bills passed under their leadership and control, while Republicans will begin a new Congress without the pressure of a government shutdown or unfinished national security policy looming on the horizon. The 118th Congress will have a significant list of to-dos that will require both political leverage and bipartisan negotiation – most notably the Farm Bill and another round of annual funding bills (and potentially tax extenders). Any unfinished business from this year will only further complicate next year’s agenda, which is already under pressure from a presidential election, a hyper-partisan Congress, and narrow majorities on both sides of the Capitol. For all these reasons (and probably some others), the House and Senate will work hard behind the scenes this year to get everything possible over the finish line and to the President’s desk for signature.


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