2015 Productive Legislative Year For Congress, But 2016 Presidential Election Year Holds Little Promise
The U.S. House and Senate reconvened in January for the 2nd Session of the 114th Congress after closing out a very productive and bipartisan 1st legislative session. Major accomplishments during the last session of Congress included:
- repairing how the Medicare program pays physicians
- overhauling the education law No Child Left Behind
- adopting a 5 (but will become a 3)-year highway bill totaling $300 billion
- passing all 12 appropriations bills in a $1.15 trillion Omnibus spending bill that funds all government agencies for FY 2016 and includes policy riders that end the ban on U.S. exports of crude oil and helps resolve data breaches of government information.
Short Window to Effect Changes
But the celebration of these legislative accomplishments will be short-lived as Congress reconvened amidst a presidential election year in 2016 that only offers a very short window of opportunity to pass legislation. Consider, the House and Senate will be in session 111 and 148 days this year respectively. The legislative calendar is cut short this year as both major political parties convene their presidential nominating conventions starting the second week of July. In addition, time will be needed for political campaigns as all House members are up for re-election and 34 U.S. Senators – with Republicans defending 24 seats and Democrats defending 10 seats.
Add to this the sad news of the untimely death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia that has set off intense partisan debate over the timing of his replacement. This is certain to increase the chance of partisan gridlock that will last at least until a successor is confirmed.
Given the constraints of this presidential election year we believe Congress has a better-than-average chance at passing the following major pieces of legislation during this session:
- 12 annual appropriations bills for FY 2017,
- International business tax reforms that discourage inverting corporate structures and mergers with companies in foreign countries with lower tax burdens,
- Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization,
- Resolution to fix Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis, and
- Criminal sentencing reforms reducing minimum sentences for drug offenses.