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Andy Friedman: It Isn’t Over Till the Lame Duck Quacks

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With their victory in the midterm elections, Republicans now “own” Congress, and the GOP will receive the “credit or the blame” for what Congress accomplishes over the next two years, says Andy Friedman of The Washington Update.

In his recent commentary, “A Republican Congress Awaits – But First the Lame Duck Session,” Friedman notes that while Republicans are no longer the “opposition party,” it takes “two to compromise,” and President Barack Obama should be more willing to make concessions with the new Republican leadership “if he acknowledges this [midterm] election as a repudiation of his policies.”

If, however, Obama “continues to view Republicans in Congress as an impediment to his legacy, then he will veto unwanted legislation and continue to use his executive power as broadly as possible to implement his social agenda, likely angering the new Congressional leadership and thwarting opportunities for bipartisan progress,” Friedman writes. “Split government is alive and well.”

Indeed, Friedman sees Republicans in the House being “more conservative and ideological, with less of a desire to compromise,” but Republicans in the Senate are “likely to be more moderate and willing to compromise.”

Says Friedman: “Where the Senate leadership might seek incremental progress through limited bipartisan legislative efforts, the House leadership might prefer to stake out positions for 2016 by sending Obama legislation he is likely to veto. The party leadership will have to figure out a mix of strategies that satisfies the members of both chambers.”

But before the next Republican-led Congress takes hold, lawmakers’ lame-duck session in December, with Democrats in the majority in the Senate, will have a number of issues to address, including Obama seeking to confirm a new attorney general.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez is among the two candidates being considered to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder.

Loretta Lynch, an African-American who is the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, is said to be the leading candidate to take Holder’s spot.

Friedman has the following to say about five major issues to be considered in the lame-duck session:

Government Funding: A budget compromise reached in the wake of the 2013 government shutdown set the overall spending limits for the federal government through September 2015.  However, Congress must apportion that spending among the various government agencies.  Although failure to do so theoretically could result in another shutdown, in reality Congress should be able to address this relatively ministerial task without incident.

Tax Extenders: A group of tax provisions expired at year-end 2013. Expired provisions include items like bonus depreciation and the ability of an IRA holder over age 70-1/2 to donate up to $100,000 from his or her IRA to charity without tax. Congress is likely to extend these provisions retroactively back to Jan. 1, 2014, and forward through 2015 or 2016.

Attorney General Confirmation: The Senate is responsible for confirming the president’s appointments of Cabinet officials, federal judges and other federal officials. Until last year, Senate rules required 60 votes to approve a presidential appointee. Last year the Democrats, upset with what they viewed as Republican obstructionism, unilaterally changed the rule so that now only fifty-one votes are required to confirm a presidential appointee. The president is almost certain to seek confirmation of the new attorney general in the lame-duck session, where he is assured of 51 party votes.

Internet Tax Moratorium: Existing legislation that prevents the imposition of sales taxes on purchases made through the internet is slated to expire.  Congress likely will extend that legislation into next year.

Military Operations: Congress must decide whether to reauthorize military operations in Syria.

— Check out Valliere: Despite Victory, Republicans Shouldn’t Think Voters Love Them on ThinkAdvisor.


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