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FEDERAL | What to expect during the Lame Duck?

There were high hopes to advance key measures during the upcoming Lame Duck congressional session, but the election of a Republican President-Elect and Congress is expected to considerably alter those plans. Initially, many expected Congress to address not only the budget, but also the National Defense Authorization Act, 21st Century Cures/Senate Innovations for Healthier American, expiring tax provisions and an appointment to the Supreme Court. With the Republican electoral victories, these priorities are likely to shift, knowing that Republicans can address the longer-term issues when a new administration is in place come January 20.

During the Lame Duck session, the 114th Congress must address the current spending deadline for fiscal year 2017. Since October 1, the budget has been operating under a continuing resolution (CR), which expires on December 9, 2016. While there was talk that Republicans would compromise on funding legislation, this seems less likely given that Republicans will control the government during the 115th Congress. Instead, Republicans may opt for a short-term CR that will fund the government through inauguration day and revisit FY17 funding under the new Congress. Congress must address the CR by the December 9 deadline, set by the previous budget deal, to keep the federal government operational.

Prior to the election, there was a strong indication from Senate leadership that the 21st Century Cures/Innovations package would be considered during Lame Duck. This bill package addresses opportunities to improve access to registry data, expedite access to FDA-approved medical devices and repeal the Sunshine Act requirements on certain independent medical education. The House passed this package early in the cycle, but the Senate has been delayed by negotiations over funding the National Institutes of Health. The day after the election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reiterated that passing 21st Century Cures in the Lame Duck session is a priority.

Orientation for new members of the 115th Congress took place the week of November 14. The Lame Duck session of Congress began on November 15, with the House Republican caucus holding immediate elections for leadership positions. Committee chairmen will be selected by party leaders closer to the end of November and into the beginning of December. The 114th Congress is scheduled to conclude by Friday, December 16, although this will depend on party leaders’ ability to agree on the terms of the budget.