In the Circle

What To Expect In The Lame Duck

With President Trump and House Republicans losing nearly 40 seats in the recent midterm elections, many would think that not much will be done legislatively other than the “must pass” federal budget getting approved in the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress.

And in most years, they would be correct. Despite pledges of cooperation from both sides, lame-duck sessions rarely produce anything of consequence other than a continuing resolution that literally continues the federal spending course from the prior fiscal year. Then Congress calls it a day and heads home for the holidays.

This year may be a little different, however.  

Trump is President, and nothing seems normal in D.C. anymore.

Also on Congress’ agenda is the farm bill, which has been awaiting passage for a number of months now. My guess is that agriculture state Members of Congress will not want to walk into the local grocery store over the holidays and get berated for being unable to pass what is normally the most bipartisan bill in Congress. Add the fact that many farmers are also dealing with Trump’s tariffs that have certainly eaten into their yearly income. The pressure will be very high to get this bill passed.

There is also the possibility that a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill will be on the congressional schedule, as Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has been working hard with leaders of both parties to fix some of the inequities in the prison and sentencing systems. The President endorsed the bill last week, but Senate Majority Leader McConnell has expressed some concern about the legislation. Trump’s support will help, but McConnell will be the ultimate decision-maker on this bill.

And then there is Trump’s looming legislative agenda, which consists of two words: the wall, and with it comes many questions. Will Congress fund it, and if so, how much of it? Will Trump accept what Congress gives him, and if not, will he shut down the government over it? What about the “caravan” of migrants that is about to arrive on our border? Will that impact the debate?

The maneuvering over the wall started in earnest last week with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer telling Trump to stay out of the fray and let Congress pass the budget. It is pretty doubtful that Trump will heed these words.

So, what should we expect in next month’s lame-duck session of Congress?  

Exactly what the Trump presidency has brought us the last two years: the unexpected.