Every year after the Labor Day holiday in early September, several milestone events take place in the United States (US), such as students returning to school and the start of fall. Every four years, the holiday also marks the final stretch for a presidential election. Also at this time of year, Congress returns after an August recess to wrap up its work before December 31. This year is no different.
However, in all my experience in Washington, DC, I have never seen so much work left to do in mid-September. I wonder how it will all get done, if it even does.
The 112th Congress ends on December 31, 2012; nothing is carried over to the next year. The 113th Congress will have to start from scratch in January.
Election year politics is the most obvious reason for the lack of results. President Barack Obama’s administration is politically sensitive not to rock the boat before the election and is instead strictly in campaign mode. The Republicans are hopeful of winning the White House and possibly the majority in the Senate, so they want to put things off until they are in charge.
It’s a safe bet that nothing significant will get done before the election in early November. This will compress a lot of must-do actions into a lame duck session of Congress, which must be done between Election Day and December 31, 12.
Right after Labor Day, Congress did kick the can down the road by passing a continuing resolution on spending through March 2013. This means that the appropriations bills have been postponed. Congress essentially authorized the government to continue spending at the same rate it is now for the next six months beginning October 1, 2012.
Taxes are a big question mark. The Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of this year. Will they be extended? If so, will they be for everyone? The future of estate taxes is also very much in the mix. Payroll tax cuts of two percent that have been in place for the last two years also expire at year’s end. If they are not extended, the two percent cut goes away. If nothing is done on any of the existing tax cuts, US taxpayers will see a significant increase in their taxes next year.
Most of the agricultural community is concerned that there is no new farm bill. The current one expired September 30, 2012. The Senate has passed its version while the House Committee on Agriculture has reported its version of a farm bill to the full House of Representatives for consideration. The House Republican leadership has decided not to proceed with a farm bill just yet, making it uncertain whether a new bill will happen during the lame duck session. If nothing happens on a new farm bill, the current one will likely be extended for a year.
Sequestration is a frequently used term lately. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (debt ceiling deal) has provisions that if certain spending caps are not met, there will be automatic cuts across-the-board for discretionary and mandatory programs. The most talked about cuts would be in defense spending, and they are significant, in the hundreds of billions of dollars, a figure beyond most people’s comprehension. Congress will have to address this to avoid the draconian cuts predicted.
I am sure I’ve missed other important issues, but, no doubt, there is a big laundry list for Congress and the president to address. While the task is daunting, Congress has come through in the past. I don’t think lawmakers want to be responsible for going over some fiscal cliff. November and December will be interesting times.
In addition to what Congress has to do, the administration has been sitting on top of several proposed regulations until after the election. There’s anticipation that a real tsunami of regulations will be released after the election regardless if Obama is reelected or not. These regulations are being held up due to their political sensitivity and huge price tag.
Winston Churchill once said, “Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those others that have been tried from time to time.”
I am looking forward to November 6th and plan to vote. I hope you do, too.
October 2012 RENDER | back