Lawmakers Push for Lame-Duck Stew to Clear Kitchen for Next President

It may be early to start planning the holiday menu, but appropriators in Congress already are planning for the lame-duck stew they hope to serve up in December.

Even before they departed for their home states for a final round of campaigning, lawmakers were at work describing to their colleagues the feast they plan to present when the House and Senate return for a post-election session.

A Not-So Lame Duck

Besides including 11 unfinished bills to fund the federal government, the year-end stew is likely to include special add-ons to help feed the needs of disaster-struck states like Louisiana and tidbits for a host of programs and policies pushed by industry. Finishing off the smorgasbord and cleaning out the kitchen is the least Congress can do for the next president, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said.

Cole, deputy majority whip and a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said Congress should finish off the spending bills in the lame-duck session regardless of whether Republican nominee Donald Trump or Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton wins the Nov. 8 election. Cole said trying to hold it all on the back burner will lead to a spoiled mess in the new year.

“I would hope we do our job in the so-called lame-duck session and make sure that they don’t have the additional task of picking up and doing the work that this Congress and this president should have done on their own,” said Cole, a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, amid calls from the Heritage Foundation and other conservative groups that Congress skip the feast and pass a plain-vanilla continuing resolution into next March. 

Among other things, Cole warned that budget sequestration and the austere diet it calls for will be back on the table as soon as next March. The current bipartisan budget agreement lapses at the end of fiscal year 2017.

Rep. Tom Cole

“The new administration, when it shows up, is going to have a lot to do, whoever that person is,” Cole said. “They are going to have to advance their agenda. They are going to have to name the Cabinet members. They are going to have to get them confirmed. They are going to have to write a budget for FY ‘18 by the middle of February."

“We will have a debt ceiling crisis in March, and we will have, frankly, the sequester to deal with, which, like Halley’s Comet, will return on schedule on time,” he said. “That is plenty for a new president and a new Congress to do.”