Three Week Stretch
The Senate returns today, and the House of Representatives will be back in session Tuesday evening. This leaves Congress with three business weeks to wrap up legislative action prior to the December 16th expiration of the continuing resolution (CR). December 16th is not a hard deadline though and it is likely Congress will consider a short-term CR to provide more time to compromise and finalize end-of-the-year priorities. For those planning holiday travel, Congress being in session through December 23rd would not be unlikely. And, if push comes to shove, they could return to complete business through January 2, 2023 as the real deadline is January 3, 2023 when the 118th Congress is sworn into session.
Regardless, this timeline does not leave much time to work on lame duck policy. 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. Policies outside of healthcare that are under consideration for lame duck include the National Defense Authorization Act, marriage equality, and election reform. In short, there is a lot of policy to accomplish in a short window. Cooperation on both sides will be needed to get many of these things across the finish line.
Additionally, this week the House of Representatives will begin organizing leadership for the 118th Congress. Specifically, House Democrats will vote on their leadership on Wednesday. It is expected that Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) will take over for Speaker Pelosi, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) will be the minority whip, Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) will be the Democratic Caucus chair, and Jim Clyburn (D-SC) will be the assistant Democratic leader. On the Republican side, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will be making deals to secure 218 votes for him to become Speaker of the House in the 118th Congress. Both Democrats and Republicans will also be voting on internal organizational matters this week.
Other items that remain outstanding include the Georgia run-off election, which will be held on December 6, 2022. The outcome will not impact who controls the Senate – Democrats will remain in control regardless of the outcome. But, having a clear majority in the Senate would impact the way committees are structured and would speed up nominations as well.