This week will be the first opportunity for Washington to come back together after the presidential election. With dramatic changes in the presidential election, this week will be more than just plotting the rest of the 114th Congress. This will also be a planning stage for how the new leadership and the new Congress will build an agenda early in January 2017.
First is how they finish up the work of the 114th Congress. Front and center is to complete work on 11 of the 12 appropriations bills. Going into this week it’s still unclear what strategy they will pursue but it is quite possible that this Congress with the same leadership continuing next year will seek a continuing resolution to extend funding into the new Congress and the new administration.
For his part Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated his number one priority is finishing up appropriations and enacting legislation that is referred to “the 21st Century Cures” bill (HR 6) that would make changes to health research.
When they meet on January 3, the new Congress will look very much like the old Congress. The numbers and the membership changed only slightly and that also means that most of the committee structure and leadership will remain the same in both houses. In the Senate, the Democrats picked up two seats so the Republican majority is now 52 instead of 54 Republican members. The two Republicans who will not be returning include Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). Kirk held a position on the Senate Help Committee. Since there was such little change in Senate numbers, the committee numbers should remain the same and so there will be few additions except for those members who are swapping assignments. There will be a continuation of Republican leadership as Senator McConnell remains in his role of majority leader, but on the Democratic side Harry Reid (D-NV) is retiring and it is expected that Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) will take over in the role of minority leader for the Democrats.
Democrats also picked up extra seats in the House but that still provides the Republicans with a solid majority of 238 seats and Democrats with 194. There are still 4 seats being decided. The other open question is the leadership for House Republicans but that may not be the question mark it was before the election. Opposition to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WS) seems to have died down when it became apparent that Donald Trump would become the new President.
As far as finishing up work for the 114th Congress, current funding for FY 2017 runs out on December 9 and it’s quite likely that when they decide on what they will do with appropriations they could wrap up all their work on that day or have another short-term extension of a few days to allow for final decisions.