Checking It Twice: A To-Do List for Congress
It’s been a grueling congressional session. With only about a week left before the 113th Congress (mercifully) comes to a close, let’s pause and take a look at what this congress has left to do before closing out the year. The House of Representatives passed a number of important bills before it left town last week and set up what could be a daunting schedule for the Senate to take on before it also leaves for the holidays. Will anything actually get done before the last lawmakers leave the District?
Let’s take a look at some of the more important items on the Senate’s agenda for the week, which is especially good to know for those of you who have internships on Capitol Hill.
A Budget Deal
The House overwhelmingly shocked everyone by overwhelmingly passing a budget deal crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Was., last week. With over 300 votes, they proudly sent the deal to the Senate for a vote this week, where it should breeze right on through the chamber, right? Not quite. Before the bill can head to President Obama’s desk for his approval, it will need some help from Republicans in order for it to clear a key procedural hurdle. It comes down to needing all 55 Senate Democrats and at least five Republicans to vote with them to end debate. A number of Republicans have indicated that they will support the bill but the vote could be narrow as some Senate Democrats might vote against it. So after all is said and done, the deal could be no deal at all.
Now, this is something that could directly impact congressional interns. The Senate is poised to approve two major presidential nominees before heading into the holiday recess. You might recall that Senate Democrats changed the filibuster rules and used the nuclear option (which is a really weird name) to eliminate the 60-vote requirement on the president’s nominees, which naturally infuriated Republicans. In response, GOP senators refused to cooperate with speedy votes, meaning the Senate had to pull all nighters last week to process nominees. This hit aides, secretaries and maybe even interns particularly hard.
This week could see more of the same. The Senate is scheduled to vote on the nomination of Jeh Johnson to be the next Secretary of Homeland Security, and Janet Yellen as the next chair of the Federal Reserve. The confirmation of these two key nominees will mark the end of an epic struggle in the Senate over nominations. Which could mean long nights are ahead once again. Be prepared.
This one is actually left over from last year’s to-do list. December 28 is when 1.3 million people will lose their unemployment insurance. Senator Reid vowed to make this the first item on the Senate’s agenda when it returns in January, arguing that the benefits could be extended retroactively. The good news is that House Speaker John Boehner has indicated a willingness to go along with the extension but is also pushing for spending reductions as a way to offset the costs, which is just a fancy way of saying it won’t get done by December 28.
There are a number of other important items that Congress has to undertake as well, and the chances any of it gets done are slim. It’s been a very rough year for the 113th Congress, but what’s really important in all of this is YOU the intern. Take this time to look back on how much you’ve accomplished this past year and what lies ahead. Know that you were part of history, and that the self-validation that brings is something you can take with you into the new year and beyond.