Congress prepares for an unhappy holidays as lawmakers return for ‘lame duck’ session

Congress prepares to have an unhappy holiday: The Capitol is back in session to prevent a government shut down by December 16, to pass the same-sex Marriage Act and other changes in the Electoral Count Act

  • Congress is back this week for the ‘lame duck’ session
  • Democrats still have weeks to win unified control 
  • In January, the House will be under Republican control
  • Democratic leaders plan to increase the debt ceiling
  • Senators of the GOP supported the reforms to Electoral Count Act.
  • A group of Senate Republicans supports same-sex marriage legislation
  • To keep the government in operation, Congress must also pass spending legislation
  • Major defense bill, Ukraine, and Covid aid are also on the agenda 

After a Thanksgiving break, Congress returns to work for one final legislative push before Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, hands her gavel over to Republicans in the New Year.

Party leaders and factions are competing for priorities with limited floor time to move – with key ‘must pass’ legislation also set to soak up time and attention.  Only weeks remain for Democrats to regain unified control over Congress. However, their Senate majority will last into the new Year. 

Legislation to protect same-sex and interracial marriages got a boost this month when a dozen Senate Republicans voted to advance a bill – signaling it could clear a Republican filibuster to become law if it gets priority.

The bill was pushed by Democrats after Roe v. Wade was struck down by the Supreme Court in July. Some lawmakers also warned that protections for same-sex marriage could be next on the horizon.

The Electoral Count Act could be reformed, and the complex provisions that define the role of Congress in the counting of the votes for the president, could also slip through the cracks while Democrats hold the majority.

A version by Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California and Republican Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney – who is soon to depart Congress – already passed the House, and 16 Republicans are on board with a Senate version. 

All this legislative madness comes as President Joe Biden’s White House tries to get into the holiday spirit by rolling out a new gingerbread White House with holiday decorations.  

Only a few more weeks remain for Democrats to regain unified control over government. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House (D-CA), (L) and Charles Schumer, Senate Majority Leader (D-NY), hope to pass’must-pass legislation’ as well as other legislative priorities before Republicans take control of the House.

With the latest continuing resolution due to expire December 16, legislative priorities such as those mentioned above will be competing for attention. 

To fund the government, lawmakers must either pass a new bill or a larger ‘omnibus’ bill. The government’s parts would be shut down if there was no action. To push through large-scale legislation, Senate Republicans would need to buy-in, many of whom are retiring.

This impasse could quickly reach Christmas and New Years, when legislators are often desperate to get home.  

A game of legislative chicken will likely only give a glimpse of the clashes expected in divided government after Republicans gain control of the House.

Lawmakers Hope To Push Through Changes To The Electoral Count Act, With Support From A Group Of Senate Republicans

With support from a group if Senate Republicans and lawmakers, legislators hope to push for amendments to the Electoral Count Act.

President Biden Wants To Push Through $40 Billion To Aid Ukraine

President Biden would like to see $40 billion for Ukraine aid

Democrats Want To Act To Protect Same-Sex Marriage Rights Before They Hand Over Control Of The House

Democrats want to do something to preserve same-sex marital rights before they lose control of the House

This is why Democratic leaders are considering raising the $31.4 trillion statutory default ceiling. Even though the government won’t be able to immediately exceed the limit, Democrats could act now to seize some leverage from Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, who hopes to be Speaker. 

If they don’t, a high risk fight with a fiscal closure looming could be the main feature of next Year. 

After McCarthy’s assertion that Republicans wouldn’t provide a blank check’ to Ukraine aid, President Joe Biden wants to push for $40 billion in Ukraine funding.

It comes after nine months worth of security packages that have severely strained the supply and arsenals of NATO allies and the U.S.

It is above the National Defense Authorization Act. This legislation is a must-pass and sets the direction for U.S. defense policy each year. 

Biden also wants $9 billion in COVID funding. However, Republicans rejected his request last time. 

Democrats also are considering another push to try to reinstate the expired assault weapons ban following mass shootings in Chesapeake, Va. and Colorado Springs, Colo. separated by mere days. 

Biden is vague about the timing of any push, but he has repeatedly said he will demand action.  

He said, “I’m going try to get rid assault weapons,” during his Thanksgiving trip in Nantucket. When asked directly if he would press Congress to make progress in the matter in the lame duck debate, he responded, “I’m willing to do it whenever I can – I’ve got that assessment to make as soon as I get in and begin counting votes.” 

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