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Washington Week

November 27, 2011 - 6:00pm

Congress comes back from its Thanksgiving recess this week to what could result in one of the most jam-packed three weeks of congressional session in recent years.

Congress is aiming to adjourn the first session of the 112th Congress by the Friday before Christmas week.

Friday, Dec. 16, just happens to also bethe expiration date of the most current stopgap government spending bill. This means that Congress will have to conclude the remaining nine appropriations bills not passed through Congress when the fiscal year began Oct. 1. These bills were part of the omnibus appropriations bill passed earlier which expires Dec. 16.

The Senate members left two unfinished bills on the table when they went on their recess for Thanksgiving. The first was the Energy and Water appropriations bill. Efforts by the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to marry this spending bill with two others failed during the last week of the Senate session before the Thanksgiving recess began. They were also debating and offering amendments to the Defense authorization bill.

When the Senate returns on Monday, there are 270 amendments filed, of which 103have actually been made pending. Therefore those 103 must be disposed of one way or another.

The House will be considering HR 3463, a bill that cuts federal spending by repealingpublic funding for presidential campaigns and closing down the federal elections commission.

Together, the House and Senate leaders will also be negotiating the last omnibus appropriations bill that keeps our government operating up to Friday, Dec. 16.The current spending bill passed through the House with the help of more Democratic members of the House than Republican members. The vote garnered 101 no votes from House Republicans.

These GOP no votes numbered twice as many as voted against the original omnibus appropriations bill that the current omnibus appropriations bill replaced.The next spending bill Congress will need to pass could face significant opposition from congressional Republicans.

With this in mind, the congressional leaders are considering passing the next omnibus appropriations bill and including some of the more popular expiring tax provisions that affect almost every American citizen. Some of these tax provisions include:

  1. Extending the 2 percent tax holiday.
  2. Extending the unemployment insurance benefits.
  3. Delaying the cut to doctors' reimbursement payments.
  4. Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) patch.
  5. Sixty-plus other provisions that expire Dec. 31. Some of these include:

State and local tax deductions.
Deductions for teachers classroom supplies.
Research and development tax credits.
Tax credits for biodiesel and ethanol.

Finally, given the failure of the supercommittee to report legislation that saves our government $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion, expect amendments to be offered that reflect the findings of the Simpson/Bowles deficit-reduction commission and/or the deficit-reduction legislation that resulted from the Senate gang of 6.

Stay tuned to see how much of this must-pass legislation Congress is able to pass and charge on the national credit card.

Elizabeth B. Letchworth is a retired, elected United States Senate Secretary for the Majority and Minority. Currently she is a senior legislative adviser for Covington & Burling, LLC and is the founder of

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