Congress Is Back
Congress is back to begin the lame duck session of the 117th Congress today. But before attention focuses solely on that, they will organize for the new Congress. While Republicans are favored to take control of the House, it is still uncertain, as many close races have not yet been called. Regardless, House Republicans plan to vote on their leadership tomorrow, November 15. No one expects Rep. McCarthy to have a problem gaining a majority to be the Republican leader tomorrow. However, the real challenge will come with what he has to concede in order to get 218 votes on the House floor in January. He likely will have to make deals with conservative and moderate Republicans in order to get their votes. For Democratic leadership, House Democrats will hold their leadership elections on November 30. While staff are working behind the scenes on policies for lame duck, many things are on hold until these leadership votes are concluded.
This situation does not leave much time to work on lame duck policy, and the current continuing resolution runs out on December 16. In the healthcare space, several items need to get done during lame duck, including addressing Medicaid funding in the territories; Medicare PAYGO 4% cut; Medicare Low-Volume Payment Adjustment; Medicare-Dependent Hospital Program; and the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program. Stakeholders also want Congress to address several other priorities in lame duck, including mental health, telehealth, Medicare payment adjustments, and US Food and Drug Administration policies.
It is important to remember that the presidential election cycle has already begun. While no one has announced candidacy for the presidency just yet (give it a day), the moment the midterm election ended, the next election cycle began. It was not so long ago that there was at least some level of calm post-midterm before the presidential storm began in earnest. But by the time Congress returns to start the 118th Congress, presidential politics is likely to already be playing a role.