As one of the small percentage of Americans who love political campaigns and look forward to election season, I am always a little sad to see election day come and go on that first Tuesday in November. In fact, my obsession runs so deep that I often record television shows for the specific purpose of watching the political ads that run throughout the program. I am sure that the majority of the people reading this, all of my loved ones included, are pleased to watch television and not hear, “My name is Humpty Dumpty, and I approve this message,” but I am not one of them.
It is said that all good things must come to an end, as does this election, and after the votes are counted (and recounted), we are left with our third- straight election where “change” was the mandate of the electorate. Republicans made historic gains in the House of Representatives, by taking the majority and gaining more than 60 seats. Democrats continue to control the Senate, but by a narrower margin, as the Republicans gained seats. So what can we expect in the lame duck session of the current Congress and in the early days of the newly elected Congress? Allow me to break out my crystal ball and prognosticate.
When people ask me what the lame duck session is exactly, I reply that it is the legislative and governing equivalent of the two weeks' notice period given to an employer when you have taken a new job. The majority of the time is spent saying goodbye to colleagues, cleaning up your office, doing minimal work and trying not to rock the boat in the event that you need a job reference. This is the case for Congress the vast majority of the time; they show up, tie up some loose ends, maybe vote themselves a raise, and then they are gone for the holidays.
There remains a chance that congressional Democrats could play the role of disgruntled employee and pass some publicly unpopular legislation and burn bridges. However, I don't anticipate this happening and think there might actually be some opportunity for legislative compromise. The following are some initiatives and the odds that those bills will pass in the lame duck session.
Extension of the 01/ '03 (Bush) tax cuts — 50% chance of passing.
25(c) tax credit extension — 40% chance of passing.
Estate tax reform — 35% chance of passing.
Card Check — 5% chance of passing and probably dead for the next Congress.
Cap and Trade — 0% chance of passing and the cause of death for many congressional losers.
In January, a new Congress will be seated. There will be a lot of talk about future goals. I can tell you without hesitation that the Healthcare bill WILL NOT be overturned. I expect there to be a movement to do so. The House may even pass a bill doing just that, but probably no bill will pass the Senate, and there is zero chance that the president would do anything that the public could construe as a repeal of the Healthcare legislation. More likely, after some posturing on both sides, there will be plenty of hearings, and the GOP will move to eliminate certain provisions of the bill. Among them:
The 1099 provision, requiring a business to issue a 1099 to anyone that they do more than $600 worth of business with. This includes hotels, banks, restaurants, retailers and others.
The provision requiring employers to list employer paid health benefits on an employee's W-2.
Reducing the age of mandated dependent coverage from 26 to 22.
I would also expect House Republicans to address any remaining tax issues that are not covered during the lame duck session, and I think that there will be continued efforts to cut spending. Furthermore, the GOP has promised significant oversight of Executive Offices such as the EPA and the Department of Energy.
I believe that the incoming divided Congress will have a very short window of opportunity to pass meaningful legislation. Roughly 13 months from today marks the first presidential primary and all of the political posturing that comes with it. Will Congress be able to act in a bipartisan manner? Will the president and the Congress coexist? Only time will tell, but I can't wait 13 months for those commercials to start up again.
Jon Melchi is HARDI's government affairs manager. Contact him at 614/345-HEAT (4328) or [email protected].