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Thursday, November 30, 2023

On the crowded Hill agenda for December

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and President Donald Trump meet at White House. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Taxes, spending, immigration and more top a lengthy to-do list when lawmakers return to Capitol Hill on Monday after their Thanksgiving break.

President Donald Trump plans to meet with congressional leaders on Tuesday to try to hammer out the end-of-year agenda.

For Trump and the Republican-run Congress still reaching for their first major legislative victory, tax cuts would fit the bill. Democrats will carry leverage into year-end talks on agency budgets. Hanging over it all are congressional elections less than 12 months away.

A look at December’s difficult agenda:



The House has passed a 10-year, $1.4 trillion tax cut that blends a sharp reduction in top corporate and business tax rates with more modest relief for individuals. The Senate anticipates voting on its version this coming week. The Senate plan has larger rate cuts for individuals and a more generous per-child tax credit, but contains greater budgetary gamesmanship. Republicans can pass the measure without Democratic votes.



A temporary spending measure expires Dec. 8. Congress needs to pass an extension to avert a partial government shutdown. There also are 12 unfinished appropriations bills that must be completed. Accomplishing that would require an adjustment of spending caps that are the remnant of a failed 2011 budget deal. Democratic votes are required to pass the measures but bipartisan talks are behind schedule. Trump’s recent $44 billion request for hurricane aid, his third, is drawing criticism from Texans and others who say it ignores desperate needs in hurricane-hit states and Puerto Rico.



A major battle over paying for Trump’s long-promised border wall with Mexico should finally come to a head. Also, Democrats and moderate Republicans are pressing for a legislative fix to protect the legal status of immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Republicans do not want that issue caught up in the funding bill, but Democrats have other ideas.



A popular program that provides health care to 9 million children of low-income families faces reauthorization after its funding expired at the end of September. States have been getting by on holdover money, but some states are reporting that they’ll run out this month and would have to cut off care. Bipartisan talks over how to pay for an extension will require a breakthrough soon.



The financially troubled flood insurance program expires Dec. 8. A bill to renew it has passed the House, but the Senate measure is stalled. A program permitting warrantless electronic surveillance of foreigners by U.S. intelligence agencies faces renewal. More revelations regarding sexual harassment on Capitol Hill are possible, and ethics investigations involving Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and, perhaps, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., could get underway. The House plans to vote this coming week on requiring anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for all members and their staffs. Alabama voters on Dec. 12 will elect Republican Roy Moore or Democrat Doug Jones in a closely watched Senate race.


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