Before the newly-elected 114th Congress takes office in January, the current Congress still has a few weeks of work left (and I use the word “work” loosely). Wednesday marks the first day Congress will be in session since mid-September, and before the new Congress is sworn in, the 113th Congress has much on its legislative plate. Let’s take a look now at four of the most pressing issues this lame duck Congress could address within the next couple weeks.
The War on ISIS
Last week, President Obama asked Congress to approve funding to send roughly 1,500 more troops to Iraq to “train and advise” Iraqi military forces in the fight against ISIS. While on the campaign trail, many prominent Republican lawmakers have called for President Obama to put boots on the ground in Iraq to fight ISIS, rather than increasing the amount of airstrikes or military advisers. Even if the current Congress approves the president’s request of simply sending advisers, the next Congress still could force the issue in 2015 and vote to put American forces in Iraq.
Government Funding Bill
That’s right, another one of these battles. On Dec. 11, funding for the federal government runs out and Congress will need to pass a spending bill before then to keep the government running. Congress last passed a spending bill in a continuing resolution just before it adjourned on Sept. 17. According to Time, future majority leader Mitch McConnell has expressed his desire to pass a clean spending bill and avoid a shutdown.
The question here (as well as with most of these issues) is whether those on the far right of the G.O.P. in both chambers will fall into line with the thinking of leaders such as McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Tea Party lawmakers may feel emboldened by the results of this month’s election and may feel that any spending bill should be handled by the new Congress in January.
Loretta Lynch’s Nomination as AG
Lynch, a federal prosecutor in New York, was nominated Saturday to replace Eric Holder as attorney general. Since Holder announced his resignation in late September, it had widely been assumed that the Senate would confirm whoever President Obama nominated to replace Holder since Democrats would still have control of the upper chamber during the lame duck session. However, Senate Democrats have said there isn’t enough time to adequately gather information on Lynch and have her appear before the Senate before confirming her.
Congressional Republicans have made it increasingly clear that they feel President Obama should wait until the 114th Congress is sworn in to tackle the immigration bill. The president has said repeatedly that he does not want to wait until then and could issue an executive order. It is an issue that has been pushed back over and over again, as if both sides are afraid of the consequences of passing any kind of immigration legislation. Or both sides could be taking hard lines in public in order to increase negotiating leverage behind-the-scenes. In other words, there is no way of telling if the lame duck Congress and the president will come together on a deal in the next few weeks.