2018 kicks off with a busy month for Congress, which
has until January 19 to pass a bill to fund the
Democrats and Republicans want to address in the
package issues like Obamacare stabilization, immigration, and
Republicans and President Donald Trump are also eyeing
other legislative plans for the year.
President Donald Trump and his congressional counterparts are
about to face a slew of deadlines that could result in a shutdown
to begin the new year.
Congress must pass legislation to fund the government by January
19 to avoid a partial government shutdown. Negotiations look set
to be fraught, as Republicans and Democrats alike will attempt to
resolve a series of legislative issues by attaching other agenda
items to the must-pass bill.
Not only does Congress have to deal with the mandatory deadlines:
GOP leadership is also likely to set its sights on the next big
legislative push after completing their massive tax code
overhaul. What that will be remains up in the air.
The ‘need to pass’ legislation
After punting repeatedly on substantial fiscal deadlines in 2017,
the route to avoiding a shutdown appears much more complicated
this time around.
Here’s a rundown of just some of the issues that members of
Congress want to include as part of the funding negotiations:
Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
program: The Obama-era immigration program, which
protects more than 700,000 unauthorized immigrants that
arrived in the US as minors, is set to expire in March after
Trump gave Congress a six-month deadline to codify the program.
Democrats have made the program a top priority in the funding
Obamacare stabilization: Republican
leaders assured GOP Sen. Susan Collins amid tax-bill
negotiations that they would hold a vote on the bipartisan
Alexander-Murray bill, which would stabilize the Affordable
Care Act’s individual insurance markets. The vote was delayed
until 2018, however.
Children’s Health Insurance
Program: Congress authorized $3 billion more for
the CHIP program before the holiday to prevent children from
losing health coverage. But they still have not come to a
long-term solution. Democrats want a simple extension of the
funding, while the GOP wants to pair the extension with cuts to
healthcare spending elsewhere.
Government surveillance powers: Section 702 of
the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which
authorized the National Security Agency and others to collect
large amounts of data and communications, is set to expire
January 19. Many Democrats and Republicans alike want to
curtail the surveillance powers, and adjustments to the program
could be included in the funding bill.
Disaster relief: The White House and
lawmakers from areas affected by hurricanes and other natural
disasters in 2017 have asked for billions more in additional
aid to rebuild those areas.
Congress punted twice on dealing with government funding before
the holiday break, extending it for weeks-long periods as
Republicans rushed to pass their tax bill. With the tax bill
passed, the probability of a shutdown this time around is higher,
said Isaac Boltansky and Lukas Davaz, analysts at the research
firm Compass Point.
“Our sense is that the successful enactment of tax reform
has left neither party eager to compromise on other issues,”
Boltansky and Davaz wrote in a note to clients. “We
peg the odds of a government shutdown in mid-January at
60% given the current state of play in DC.”
The next GOP push
The new year also provides Republicans the chance to
lay out their next big legislative item.
Republican leaders have floated several options. For instance,
House Speaker Paul Ryan immediately began to set his sights on
entitlement reform in the form of cuts to programs like Medicaid
and Medicare. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that
the slim 51-49 majority for the GOP in the Senate likely means
that wouldn’t be an option.
Additionally, Trump has told Republican lawmakers that he plans
to deal with the issue of
entitlements in his second term, should he get one.
“We are bearish on efforts to curtail entitlement spending
in this Congress given the lack of Democratic support for the
effort in the Senate, tentativeness among certain Republicans,
and a basic lack of procedural bandwidth before the midterms,”
Another option on the table, and perhaps a more palatable one, is
an infrastructure package. Trump promised during the campaign
spend $1 trillion on new infrastructure projects with a
combination of private and public money.
After the tax bill passed, many Trump officials began to talk up
the possibility of moving forward on the package — including
Marc Short, White House director of legislative
Gary Cohn, the National Economic Council director.
McConnell said an infrastructure push was on the table but that
it would likely need Democratic support.
Chris Kreuger, an analyst at Cowen Washington Research Group,
said a large package could be difficult since there are a slew of
policy differences on infrastructure between the parties — such
as how to pay for it.
“Infrastructure is very hard to shoe-horn into a
reconciliation bill, so Democratic Senate votes will be needed
(at least nine),” Kreuger said in a note. “The House Freedom
Caucus is lukewarm on public works spending, so there is a real
Trump, McConnell, and Ryan are set to meet at Camp David over the
weekend to hash out the strategy for year two of the Trump
presidency — both in the immediate fights over funding and the