As the 115th Congress begins winding to an end after a momentum-changing win on part of the Democratic Party retaking the majority in the House of Representatives, lawmakers could be bracing for legislative disagreements and consequential political pressures as several crucial bills could come up for a vote amidst leadership battles and as the aftermath of Election Day unfolds. Starting tomorrow, Congress has approximately four weeks to wrap up their work for this session, with not much room for mistakes remaining.
Of course, the leadership shake up is presumed to be one of the leading issues. As Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (WI-1) is retiring and Republicans will hand over their majority stake in the legislature in January, the race for party leadership is turbulent.
Senior member for the House Freedom Caucus Congressman Jim Jordan (OH-4) is challenging Congressman Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) for the role of next session’s minority leader, also having the popular backing of conservatives. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (LA-1) was rumored to be giving the nod for a run for the top post in the House Republican Conference after Chairwoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (WA-5) announced that she would not seek a fourth term. Congresswoman Liz Cheney (WY-at large) launched her bid last week to become the head of the GOP’s communications, promising to bring a more aggressive message in 2019, saying that Republicans “must be armed and ready to go on offense.”
On the Democratic side, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) is said to be the top choice for the party to assume the role of speaker of the house next year. In the Senate, positions will largely stay the same.
When it comes to the legislative agenda, centered on the looming government shutdown on December 7, around one dozen appropriations bills still must be passed. Moreover, are too the criminal justice reform package edging closer towards the Senate floor, and the “Farm Bill” which has party line contentions over food stamp work requirements.
Nonetheless, as with nearly all funding deadlines, a threat to passage is waiting.
Funding for President Donald Trump’s proposed southern border wall, which has been an obstacle in the past, could be granted life again as it has remained a legislative stalemate for months. Furthermore, it could be the last real leverage the Republicans have on a staunch party agenda item until after the 2020 General Election, barring Republicans winning back the majority and, of course, President Trump winning a second term in the White House.
An under-rated, yet extraordinary important agenda item that will continue at a rapid pace is the confirmation of judicial nominations. Trump has appointed, in just under two years, 84 federal judges; twice the amount that his predecessor appointed during the first two years of his presidency. With the net gain of at least two Senate seats – a part from the recount in Arizona between Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally (AZ-2) and Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-9) – Republicans in the Senate will be gripping with fervor to confirm a barrage of youthful, conservative justices in whatever is the equivalent of light speed is in Washington.
Regardless, with the ousting of Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week following a raucous, post-midterm election press conference by President Trump, a Cabinet-level confirmation hearing will be held some time soon. Considering what occurred during the months-long confirmation hearing of now-Associate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, another eventful and dramatic hearing process may be inevitable, witnessed in full by an already tiresome American public.
Trump’s “Lame Duck” session with a Democratic majority in the House, on the other hand, will undoubtedly be loud, both figuratively and literally, presumably. Possibly though, he could take a page out of his predecessor’s commander-in-chief handbook and get some things done on The Hill. After all, he’s got a “phone and a pen.”