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A Full Plate for a Lame Duck


Below is a brief run-down on some of the issues Congress has debated in recent weeks and may revisit during its lame-duck session in November:

  • Taxes. Neither the House nor Senate voted on whether to extend key tax provisions scheduled to expire at the end of December:  the Bush tax cuts and the Recovery Act’s expansion of tax credits for low- and moderate-income working families.  Those votes will likely take place during the lame-duck session.
  • Health reform. Congress rejected several proposals in recent weeks to undo individual pieces of the Affordable Care Act.  This week, for example, the Senate defeated a proposal from Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) to repeal federal regulations concerning which health plans would be exempt from the law’s consumer protections and insurance market reforms.  As we explained, the proposal would likely have left many consumers without access to critical protections the Affordable Care Act provides.  Last month, the Senate defeated an amendment by Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE) to repeal an Affordable Care Act provision designed to improve businesses’ compliance with federal tax laws.  The amendment would not only have allowed tax avoidance to continue, but also eliminated critical funding for health prevention and seriously weakened the health reform law’s requirement that individuals obtain health insurance or pay a penalty.Similar proposals to repeal Affordable Care Act provisions or block aspects of the law’s implementation will likely emerge during the lame-duck session.
  • TANF Emergency Fund. This Recovery Act fund, which states have used to create more than 200,000 jobs, expired yesterday when the Senate failed to extend it.  (The House has twice passed legislation to extend the fund.)  Congress is expected to revisit the issue in the lame-duck session, though many of the programs around the country that have relied on the Emergency Fund will have shut down by then.
  • Child nutrition reauthorization. The Senate failed to vote on a bill that would renew the federal child nutrition programs, including the school lunch and WIC programs.  The continuing resolution that Congress approved yesterday will extend those programs until early December.
  • SSI benefits for refugees. Up to 5,600 poor refugees and other poor individuals admitted to the United States because they faced persecution in their home countries lost eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits today after efforts in Congress to extend their benefits failed.  It is unclear whether Congress will vote during the lame-duck session on restoring the benefits.
  • Housing vouchers for low-income families. The House Financial Services Committee has approved the Section 8 Voucher Reauthorization Act (SEVRA), which would make important improvements in the voucher program, but neither the full House nor the Senate has acted on the bill.  Congress may take further action during the lame-duck session.