Government affairs

Legislative Updates

Congress returns for ‘lame duck’ session

On Nov. 14, Congress returned to Capitol Hill for the remaining “lame duck” session. Lawmakers have not determined when the session will end or exactly what work will take place; however, one of their most urgent matters includes funding the government past Dec. 9, when the current short-term funding resolution is set to expire.

Prior to departing for the Nov. 8 general election, Congress continued to work on appropriations bills. House and Senate leaders have put the brakes on moving ahead with the Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations process, however. The progress made among the 12 individual spending measures is reflected below:

 

The incoming Trump administration requested that lawmakers pass a short-term spending bill to extend the government’s funding levels through March 31. Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has signaled he will begin working immediately on the measure. The short-term resolution would allow the Trump administration to provide input on spending for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2016, potentially paving a way to defund portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)—better known as Obamacare.

Where does this leave other legislative matters?

Lawmakers whose districts have been affected by severe flooding continue to call for additional funds to help their constituents recover from that and from the effects of Hurricane Matthew. In September, Congress appropriated $500 million to help Louisiana, Texas and West Virginia, but many lawmakers referred to that as a “down payment.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) are prioritizing the “21st Century Cures” medical bill, which they hope gets passed this year. The package includes billions of dollars for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and changes to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval process in an effort to increase the availability of innovative drugs and devices. Vice President Joe Biden is also encouraging lawmakers to increase funding for cancer research.

A conference committee will lead discussions among lawmakers over federal assistance for repairing Flint, MI’s lead-contaminated water supply. In September, the House passed legislation authorizing $170 million in aid for Flint, but Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has insisted that the final bill appropriate $220 million.

Regarding postal reform, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently released a cost-estimate on the Postal Service Reform Act (H.R. 5714). With the uncertainty of the lame-duck session’s agenda and timeline, it’s unlikely that the bill will be taken up before the end of the year. NALC continues to work with House and Senate committee leaders to help ensure that the legislation addresses the needs of letter carriers.

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