Sept. 29 — Appropriations “minibuses,” health-care bills and an overhaul of the U.S. criminal justice system are at the top of House Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) list of things to get done in the lame-duck session.
Ryan met with reporters at his weekly press conference Sept. 29 to tout the achievements of the 114th Congress, the first since the 109th in 2005-2006 to be under full Republican control. His appearance came a day after Congress cleared a bill (H.R. 5325) to keep most government agencies from running out of funding through Dec. 9.
“When we return in November, I look forward to completing work on some very important key initiatives that just haven't quite gotten over the finish line: Tim Murphy's (R-Pa.) mental health reform, Fred Upton's (R-Mich.) 21st Century Cures initiative,” Ryan said. “Obviously, we passed our water resources bill last night. The Senate has passed theirs. We need to complete work on that.”
“And I also am hoping that we can make progress on criminal justice reform,” he said. That could be more difficult, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said criminal justice legislation won't see action in his side of the Capitol (see related story in this issue).
But Ryan and McConnell appeared to agree on the idea of grouping appropriations bills together in “minibuses”—to distinguish them from a single, catch-all omnibus—to try to finish the fiscal 2017 appropriations process. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) has said she favors an omnibus and has suggested expiring tax breaks should go into such a bill.
“We are not in favor of doing a big massive omnibus,” Ryan said. “Yes, we've got a lot of work to do. Our appropriators are going to be working all month, all October. It's not as if we're not in session, we're not getting work done. We're going to be working on these things so that in the fairly brief time we have in November and December, we can start moving appropriations bills.”
Ryan said a compilation of some new and old Republican proposals called “A Better Way” would guide House Republicans' plans.
“This is our plan for 2017,” he said, holding up a brochure outlining the ideas. “Much of this you can do through budget reconciliation and I think the rest of it is something that the vast majority of the American people want to see get done. Do we want to keep you people stuck in poverty and on welfare or do we want to change our welfare programs to get people from welfare to work? Do we want to get the regulations off the backs of our businesses so they can start creating jobs?”
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