After time at home for a Thanksgiving break, lawmakers in Congress get back to work in Washington, D.C. on Monday, facing a variety of budget decisions that could spark a political showdown before Christmas, and maybe even a government shutdown in less than two weeks.
Among the many issues that might surface on Capitol Hill:
1. Return of the Omnibus – The giant, year-end spending bill that everyone loves to hate will be back in a few days. House and Senate negotiators have been working for weeks to cram twelve spending bills into one giant package, as lawmakers again failed to get their budget work done on time this year.
2. Will Republicans Revolt? – Speaker Paul Ryan will have his first real test with the consideration of the Omnibus, as the size of the bill – and what’s in it – gives any GOP lawmaker a number of reasons to vote against it. We’ll see if more conservative Republicans draw a line in the sand – or even multiple lines – on the Omnibus.
3. The Math is the Same – Some Republicans want to force a showdown over limits in the Omnibus on Syrian refugees, Planned Parenthood, the Obama Health law and more. GOP leaders can probably get many of those items through the House, but they won’t have 60 votes in the Senate.
4. Government Shutdown on December 11? – If there is no deal on the Omnibus spending measure, then a government shutdown is possible; the current temporary federal budget runs out a week from Friday. If you want to limber up for the release of the FY 2016 Omnibus, you can go over last year’s version here.
5. Don’t Forget the Extenders – Lawmakers will also try to pass what has become a yearly effort to extend a series of expiring tax provisions, known as the “tax extenders.” These temporary tax breaks now total some $86 billion. Read up on them here.
6. Don’t Forget the Presidential Race – It won’t take much to elevate a political issue in the Congress to the campaign trail, especially for Republicans. That’s sure to make this final few weeks of the 2015 session all the more interesting, especially with a GOP debate set for December 15, and a Democratic debate on the 19th.
7. Don’t Forget World Events – The terrorist attacks in Paris were a reminder of how external events, whether in the U.S. or around the world, can change the political focus here in the United States. Just a few weeks ago, no one would have imagined lawmakers talking so much about national security and terrorism.